Fountain vs. Packaged Beverages

Survey shows preferences differ by age groups

Published in CSP Daily News

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Most convenience stores offer both fountain and packaged beverages. And that's a good thing, according to a recent survey conducted by Chicago-based Technomic Inc. on behalf of American Express.

The survey shows a growing split between consumers who prefer one type of beverage over the other. When asked which type of beverage they preferfountain or bottledwhen given a choice while dining in a restaurant, 45% of respondents said they would opt for a fountain beverage, while 35% chose bottled beverages; 20% had no preference.

Fountain drinks were preferred by 50% of respondents ages 18 to 34 and 45% of consumers ages 35 to 54. Consumers 55 years old and older, however, opted just slightly for bottled drinks, 42% saying they prefer bottled and 40% choosing fountain drinks.

Some consumers find fountain beverage limiting, the survey, summarized for the February 2006 American Express Market Brief, reported. In qualitative interviews, consumers sometimes report that they make a second stop after picking up their food [at a restaurant] to purchase bottled beverages. The rub for retailers, the report noted, is that fountain beverages typically offer a larger margin but smaller selection.

Other summaries of the report:

For retailers with a full-service restaurant with a takeout program, offering both fountain and bottled beverages would likely increase customer satisfaction. The report suggests offering deals for drink combos that require the customer to purchase a minimum number of bottled beverages for a discounted price. For quick-service restaurants (QSRs), the fountain limits a retailer's drink variety. Some sandwich QSRs and quick-casual restaurants have augmented their selection with single-serve energy drinks, juices and juice drinks. These offerings have increased consumer perception that QSRs are providing healthier offerings. Consider what may be missing from consumers' perception of your restaurant(s) and add single-serve beverages that help address that gap.Empty-nesters are a larger portion of the population than adults under 35. Operators should ask themselves what type of beverages empty-nesters are ordering. Having some of these beverages available in bottles may help in satisfying customers in this consumer segment. Consider beverage offerings that fit best with their life stage and health issues.