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Have it your way,” the old jingle promised us. “Special orders don’t upset us.” At the time it was hatched a few decades ago—when heat lamps were king and identically built burgers could easily sit under them for several minutes at lunchtime—this simple creed was how Burger King chose to distinguish itself from a formidable competitor.
Nowadays, telling people they can have their burger, pizza, sandwich, salad, or side dish the way they want it is a little like offering them napkins, forks, or free parking. Made-to-order is the order of the day. And taking liberties with chains’ standard offerings is routine.
From the extensive research we’ve done at the Center for Culinary Development on Generation Y—that worldly, eclectic, and experienced demographic born between 1980 and 1992 or so—there’s no question that the vehicles this group chooses to wet its whistles are no mere afterthought. This is a generation raised on a dizzying array of beverage choices, one for which “one size fits all” is a total nonstarter.
In our recent Beverage Trends Culinary Trendmapping Report, published in conjunction with Packaged Facts/marketresearch.com, we found that the beverage market is in general splintered into niches and that two dominant subcategories have emerged: drinks that are, or are perceived to be, healthful; and drinks that are, or are perceived to be, of superior quality.
The healthful heading includes functional, nutritional, and wellness beverages. On this list are teas, juices, sodas, and waters (or combinations of these) containing exotic fruits and herbs. It includes anything from soursop, cloudberry, lychee, and yumberry to ginseng, turmeric, and other Eastern infusions. So-called “elixirs” that are intended to promote good health and relaxation are also emerging as Gen-Y favorites: botanical waters, vegetable juice blends, kombucha, and sodas sweetened with honey, agave syrup, and evaporated cane juice.