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QSR Feature
Rise and Shine Beverages
Morning cues for juice, tea, coffee, and milk offerings.
Juice wants a boost at fast food breakfast.

Value, health, and social consciousness drive drink success at breakfast time. Add to the mix something globally inspired, seasonal, or highly flavored, and everyone wakes up. These are the same trends research-and-development chefs evaluate when developing new food products, so it’s no surprise that it extends to the first gulp of the day—whether that be juice, tea, coffee, or milk.

One of the next breakfast beverage trends to watch is the thoughtful pairings of beverage with breakfast items much like fine-dining restaurants do with food and wine for dinner, says Ron DeSantis, project director for CIA consulting at the Hyde Park, New York, campus of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). “You’re already starting to see it in casual-dining chains for other dayparts,” he says.

For nearly five years, the CIA has partnered with Coca-Cola, which owns Minute Maid. Together they developed food- and beverage-pairing suggestions for some of the cola company’s casual-dining customers. It’s not too far of a stretch to envision that happening for breakfast in the fast-casual and quick-serve segments, DeSantis says.

Nutrition and flavor drive the breakfast juice category. Orange juice fits the bill, but other juices—blueberry, pomegranate, raspberry, and cranberry—are making inroads.

Even the exotic is coming into play. DeSantis talks about the rich flavors of mango juice, mango/banana mixed, and nectar, combined with the bright notes of pomegranates or açai. “These could lend a lot to breakfast items,” he says.

As it develops new juice flavors, Minute Maid looks at three key consumer trends: fresh and natural, ethnic flavors, and health and wellness, says senior brand manager David Best.

The result is Minute Maid Orange Guava Passionfruit and Orange Strawberry Banana, which have been available for a few years. The company is just introducing Pomegranate Blueberry flavored 100 percent juice (a blend of five juices) to the foodservice industry.

Minute Maid’s Specialty Beverage Group works with individual chains to develop specialty blends. One willing partner is Denny’s, which is in the midst of overhauling its breakfast beverage program.

“We won’t turn a blind eye to consumers looking for a better flavor experience and beverages that are more healthful in their eyes. That’s how we will increase our relevance. We will understand what they are looking for and properly menu those items,” says Andy Dismore, senior director of product innovation at Denny’s. He has taken note of the increase in juices available on grocery shelves and how consumers are willing to pay more for flavor with nutraceutical benefits.

Already mango juice is one of the best-selling juices at Denny’s. “How do we build on that and push further out?” Dismore asks. The answer might lie in blending the juice in with other flavors, such as popular tastes like guava or pineapple.

In fact, Denny’s plans to launch a new line of breakfast juice blends by the end of 2009.

While some see the future of breakfast juices in the realm of exotic fruit blends, others are looking at fortification.

Orange or apple juice fortified with vitamins C, A, B, and calcium aren’t as glamorous as exotic fruits, but it’s what operators increasingly ask for, says Katie Whiting, marketing manager for Juice Tyme, a Chicago-based bag-in-box juice concentrate company. Restaurants want to highlight that their juices contain 100 percent of the recommended daily intake for certain nutrients.

That health halo extends to tea, which is also having its day in the breakfast sun. “It could be the next coffee,” says Joe Pawlak, vice president of Chicago-based Technomic.

A decade ago, tea was boring, and sales were flat, Pawlak says, adding that with the introduction of variety, the category is poised to move forward in the next few years, especially green tea for its health benefits.

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