CHICAGO -- Sales of iced tea and lemonade spike in summer as customers clamor to cool off with refreshing beverages. Innovative operators are going beyond the basics to beat the competition with on-trend thirst quenchers. Take a look at the flavors and styles that are on the rise year over year in restaurants, according to data from Technomic’s MenuMonitor, and the operators that are serving them.
1. Berry infusions
Sweet berry flavors are infusing lemonades. More traditional strawberry and raspberry are the top lemonade flavors on restaurant menus—growing 6.9% and 6%, respectively, since 2017—though blackberry and blueberry are on the upswing as well.
On the menu: Houlihan’s jumped on the trend by introducing three berry-flavored lemonades to the menu: blueberry, strawberry and raspberry. And Piada Italian Street Food debuted a seasonal blackberry-hibiscus flavor in its classic lemonade selection.
2. A taste of the tropics
Tropical flavors are starting to trend. Lemonades flavored with ginger have increased almost 6%, while mango lemonade is up 4.3% and pineapple lemonade is up 7.1%.
On the menu: Lemonade, a health-focused fast casual based in California, infuses its signature lemonades with an array of fruity flavors, offering versions in peach-ginger, blood orange and watermelon-rosemary. Full service Chevys Fresh Mex offers mango and pineapple variations in its Fresh Fruit Lemonade section.
3. Cleaning up the ingredient list
Organic claims for lemonades are gaining popularity on menus, increasing 6.3% year over year. While organic mentions have not yet achieved the reach of “natural”—with 26% of lemonades on restaurant menus making that claim—it is growing at a faster rate.
On the menu: Le Pain Quotidien sweetens its housemade mint lemonade with raw, organic agave nectar, and Cafe Viva, a pizza concept in New York City, offers organic ginger turmeric lemonade. Organic commands a higher price tag: These lemonades sell for $4.50 and $4.75, respectively, compared to an average price of $3.
4. Growth, beyond the favorite flavor
When it comes to iced tea, raspberry is the No. 1 flavor, but sweet tea comes in second. Mentions of sweet iced tea have grown 1.7% on restaurant menus, while raspberry has declined slightly. Peach and mint, while not as prevalent, increased 6.8% and 10%, respectively.
On the menu: McAlister’s Deli has built its beverage program around its trademarked Famous Sweet Tea, but other chains offer it as well, some pumping it up with fruit flavors. Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ’n Biscuits, for example, recently launched Peach Legendary Sweet Tea as an LTO.
Casual-dining operators are differentiating their beverage menus by offering housemade iced teas with custom flavors. Logan’s Roadhouse offers hand-shaken iced tea in mango, peach, strawberry and blackberry, elevating the presentation by serving it in Mason jars with pieces of fresh fruit.
5. Iced tea globe-trots
Exotic fruits, including coconut, passion fruit and kiwi, are growing flavors in iced tea. Coconut has risen 23% in iced tea menu mentions, and kiwi is up 14.3%. Also on the rise is vanilla iced tea, increasing 8.3% year over year. According to Technomic’s Flavor Consumer Trend Report, younger consumers are driving the popularity of vanilla.
On the menu: Italian fast casual Vapiano menus peach-vanilla iced tea, as well as prickly pear and pomegranate flavors, while Pita Jungle lists freshly brewed kiwi-strawberry green iced tea.
6. Going green
Iced green tea is gaining ground on menus, coming in third in mentions after raspberry and sweet flavors. Two concurrent trends are playing into this growth: Green tea is a good source of antioxidants, and younger consumers are seeking foods and beverages with this health halo, according to Technomic’s Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report. Also, green tea’s Asian origins connect it to a trending global cuisine.
On the menu: Panera Bread combines a few trending flavors in its Passion Papaya Green Tea. The blend of iced green tea with passion fruit and papaya is a new offer on the menu’s craft beverage line. Starbucks’ Strawberry Green Tea Infusion is made with steeped fruit and botanical blends, then shaken with iced green tea.