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Online Trends

Published September 13th 2023

The Biggest Trends in the Beverage Industry Right Now

What are the latest beverage trends? We analyzed millions of online conversations to see how consumer behavior and preferences have changed.

Consumer behavior is constantly shifting, and brands need to be in the loop to avoid losing customers and being overrun by competitors.

Online conversations can reveal valuable information for brands on how consumers are thinking, their preferences, and what new trends influence their industry. 

With Brandwatch Consumer Research, we deep-dived into online consumer conversations around beverages across multiple languages to discover the latest trends.  

What is trending in the world of beverages? Let’s take a look at four of the biggest trends right now.

1. Baby boomers favor black coffee, while Gen Z embraces iced

Coffee is not equally popular across generations. While the coffee conversation has the highest percentage of mentions from Baby Boomers and Gen X, it also has the lowest percentage of Gen Z mentions of all non-alcoholic beverages analyzed.

In a YouGov survey, 46% of UK Gen Z consumers said they never drink coffee at home or at work, compared to 31% of Gen X and 24% of Baby Boomers that abstain from the caffeinated drink.

Baby Boomers talk about drinking their coffee black or adding sugar or milk. Gen Z prefers iced coffee instead, and they are more likely to talk about visiting coffee shops.

They also talk about coffee much more negatively than Baby Boomers do. A whopping 50% of Gen Z’s sentiment-categorized coffee mentions are negative, while only 31% of Baby Boomer’s coffee conversations are negative. Gen Z is more likely to talk about how they hate coffee or how they have trouble sleeping and, therefore, need to (for the caffeine-kick) drink coffee in the morning.

2. The energy drink conversation is growing

Energy drinks have been around for a while. Still, the number of people talking about energy drinks online increased by 18% from June 1, 2022, to May 31, 2022, compared to the previous 12 months.

Search interest in energy drinks reached a five-year high in July 2023.

Gen Z is particularly interested in energy drinks. Next after bubble tea, energy drinks have the highest percentage of Gen Z mentions of all the non-alcoholic beverages analyzed. An impressive 51% of bubble tea generational mentions are from Gen Z, and energy drinks come in second place, with 43% of all generational mentions coming from.

It's important to note that conversations about energy drinks tend to have a predominantly negative tone. In fact, approximately 44% of all discussions surrounding energy drinks are negative, while only 16% are positive.

Furthermore, compared to other beverages analyzed, energy drinks stand out with the highest percentage of angry mentions, accounting for 21% of all emotionally categorized discussions. This begs the question: What’s making people so angry?

To better understand what consumers like and don't like about energy drinks, we analyzed consumer reviews. Most notably, consumers complain about poor packaging and cans being damaged during shipping. Others say the box of cans they ordered wasn't worth the money. Negative experiences with shipping and damaged products can drive consumers to other brands and discourage other consumers from buying.

3. There’s a growing craze for flavored water

We all know that drinking water is good for you, but plain water can get boring. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that there's a new TikTok trend going around dubbed: “Water of the Day.”

Videos with the hashtag #WaterTok share so-called "water recipes" for flavored water to boost your water intake. People are mixing powders and syrups in their big jugs to create drinks like "birthday cake" or "mermaid water," and these videos have been viewed over 750 million times. And according to Google Trends, search interest for water and flavoring hit a five-year high end of May 2023.

But it’s not all rainbows and mermaid drinks. 

With 53% of all emotionally categorized mentions around water expressing disgust, conversations about water have the highest percentage of disgust mentions of all non-alcoholic beverages analyzed. This emotional response is driven by a number of things.

Some people complain about not having access to clean drinking water. Others mention water in conversations about illness, specifically, that they need to drink more or recommend others to do so. Another group says they have trouble drinking enough water because they either forget or simply don't like the taste of it.

As such, flavored water has piqued consumer interest. Online discussions about flavored water have increased by 20% in the last 12 months. According to online conversations, the most popular flavors are lemon, strawberry, orange, and coconut.

While the Watertok trend has consumers discussing the healthfulness of syrup packets and the misuse of flavored water itself, the trend of adding flavor to your water doesn't have to be with artificial ingredients, as one X user points out:

4. The rise of a sober-curious movement among younger generations

Younger generations are drinking less alcohol for a number of reasons, including health concerns, to save money, and a shift in perception that people don't need to rely on alcohol to have fun at a party.

According to Nielsen UK, alcohol sales in the UK fell by 9% in 2022 compared to 2021, and sales of non-alcoholic or low-alcohol drinks rose by 3%.

Especially in Western countries, a significant portion of Generation Z is embracing sobriety, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Notably, more and more celebrities are expanding their beverage brands to include non-alcoholic alternatives, such as energy drinks and mocktails as an alcohol-free alternative to the flagship products.

The number of people talking about mocktails online increased by 14% from June 1, 2022 to May 31, 2023 compared to the previous 12 months.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular days for drinking mocktails are Fridays. According to online conversations, these are the three most popular mocktail versions:

  • Mojitos, with 3.6k mentions
  • Margaritas, with 2.5k mentions
  • Martinis, with 1.6k mentions

Overall, the mocktail conversations are overwhelmingly positive. As much as 74% of mentions categorized by sentiment are positive. Consumers talk about drinking mocktails at restaurants or parties as part of their vegan diet. They praise the taste, and some praise having more non-alcoholic options at events and restaurants.

In the negative conversations, consumers fittingly criticize the limited options for non-alcoholic cocktails and others (perhaps more prone to alcoholic cocktails) are displeased with the taste. Other consumers complain about the price tag of mocktails being almost as high as regular cocktails.

This represents an opportunity for beverage brands to offer a greater variety of mocktails at reasonable prices to attract sober consumers.

Read more about food and beverage trends in the report

Read our latest report about the food and beverage industry to discover the latest consumer trends, including: 

  • Top food trends
  • Consumer insights on restaurant habits
  • The latest dietary preferences
  • Generational and geographic differences in consumer behavior
  • And lots more 

Discover the latest consumer trends in the food and beverage industry.

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