Driving Consumer Enthusiasm

Give customers a chance to make it their way

Published in CSP Daily News

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- Today more than ever, consumers seek elevated experiences when dining away from home. For retailers, this means that offering items that are designed to generate enthusiasm is crucial in order to effectively compete for share of stomach.

One way that retailers can meet the increasing consumer demand for excitement is by giving them the power to make menu items their own. In fact, the idea of customization is driving menu development today, according to Justin Massa, CEO of Chicago-based research firm Food Genius, in part because younger consumers have come to expect it. "The influence of millennials and their need to make everything their own is leading to more customizable options throughout the foodservice industry,” he said.

This consumer craving for individuality and customization often rings especially true with beverages, particularly for younger consumers. According to Massa, millennials have grown up with a plethora of beverage options, and the introduction of customizable beverage products in the consumer-packaged-goods industry has led them to expect those same options from retailers and foodservice operators.

“One area where we are expecting to see customization spread further in 2015 is beverage programs,” said Massa. “Beverage customization programs are becoming more common in independent restaurants as operators focus in on marketing to millennial tendencies toward individuality and adventuresome ordering.”

But offering customizable beverage options isn’t just limited to commercial operators. According to FARE’s 2014 State of Foodservice Study, 19% of c-store retailers identified made-to-order specialty coffee drinks as one beverage category with the highest sales growth potential in the next year. Similarly, 15% of retailers said that made-to-order smoothies were a beverage category with high growth potential, as well.

Here are a few tips for retailers who want to add customizable options to their beverage menus:

  • Keep it simple. A well-documented study from Columbia University showed that when faced with too many choices, consumers often become overwhelmed and instead, choose nothing. To combat this so-called “paradox of choice,” focus on offering several standout ingredients and options on your beverage menu rather than offering too many.
  • Include healthy options. The health-and-wellness trend is here to stay, so giving guests the option to order a latte with skim or reduced-fat milk, for example, can be a way to appeal to consumers who seek healthy options as well as customizable ones.
  • But don’t forget about indulgence. On the flip side, a significant number of consumers seek indulgence in their eating occasion—so much so that Technomic included indulgent menu options as a top trend for 2014. Thus, it’s important to offer craveable beverage options that are suitable for any eating occasion or that will satisfy a guest’s sweet tooth.
  • It’s not just about soft drinks. Consumers are continuing to seek beverage options outside of carbonated soft drinks; in fact, carbonated-soft-drink volume declined 3% in 2013, according to Beverage Digest. Try offering optional enhancements that jazz up water or tea, such as fresh fruit or fruit juice, liquid water enhancers or sugar-free drink mixes.