Beverages have the capacity to break down barriers surrounding conventional mealtime standards.

While snacking is no new phenomenon to the American way of life, trends in snacking culture shift regularly, and drinkable snack popularity is on the rise. While many celebrate the Starbucks Frappuccino blended coffee beverage’s 20th birthday this year, others are opting for healthier, cleaner, selections like cold-pressed juices—a $100 million per year industry that shows no sign of declining popularity.

Recent reports from The Hartman Group say consumers prioritize healthfulness and portability in their snack choices. Here are a few tips on marketing your restaurant’s beverages as best options for the snacking daypart.

Timing is Everything

Increasingly, Americans experience time poverty: the perception that too few hours exist in the day to both complete all of our work and enjoy significant free time. The phenomenon creates a situation where consumers no longer adhere to three square meals, says Rachel Kalt, senior strategist at restaurant consulting firm The Culinary Edge.

“That decrease [in time] has really contextualized the way that we evaluate meals in our life,” Kalt says. Instead of sitting down for a leisurely afternoon scone or morning pastry, Americans now reach for grab-and-go options, like smoothies, blended coffee beverages, and juice.

“Convenience and time are important factors to consumers who lead busy lifestyles with heavy workloads and long working hours,” says Carol DeNembo, vice president of business development for Juice It Up! raw juice bar. DeNembo attributes these factors to increased demand during snacking dayparts for the franchise’s healthier options, including super fruit smoothies and fruit and veggie fusion drinks.

Offering these types of portable, convenient beverage options allows consumers to snack and work simultaneously, minimizing both hunger and time starvation.

Health is Wealth

The Hartman Group’s “Health & Wellness 2015” report reveals that consumers seek out healthy beverages that are good for the heart, locally sourced, and minimally processed.

“Juice has a freshness aspect that feels a lot better than, ‘I’m going to walk over to the vending machine and make a meal from Pop-Tarts and Goldfish crackers,” Kalt says.

Juice It Up! notices spikes in healthy beverage cravings during both the morning and afternoon snacking dayparts.

“We see the highest demand by the after-school crowd,” DeNembo says. A refreshing fruit smoothie has the ability to satisfy that after-lunch sweet tooth without the guilt of stereotypical junk food. She also sees morning gym goers seeking these healthy mid-morning snack options as post-workout breakfast replacements or as fuel to replenish, recharge, and sustain them until lunchtime.

If the trend aligns with your business, Kalt says, then the investment might be worth it. Restaurants can gain those healthy and versatile credits by offering a juice, smoothie, or lemonade program, rather than clinging to artificially flavored fountain beverages of yesteryear.


It Takes Two to Tango

While some beverage options can stand alone, many concepts find success in marketing drinks as add-ons.

Concepts including Sweetgreen and Sweet Cece’s now have cold-pressed juice programs that are merchandized separately from their main offerings. Kalt says these offerings are strong daypart drivers that create ways for businesses to attract customers and boost sales from secondary menu options.

Juice It Up! and My Fit Foods are both on board with the snack-pairing model. DeNembo suggests pairing a protein-rich muffin or breakfast bar with Juice It Up!’s raw juice, and Millie Wilson, head dietitian and culinary analyst at My Fit Foods, says a lean protein option pairs well with cold-pressed juices.

“We believe you should never go more than a few hours without a meal or snack in order to keep your metabolism firing and to prevent you from becoming too hungry,” Wilson says. Beverage and food pairings prove a marketable way for restaurants to capitalize on profits while consumers enjoy an appetite curbing, combination-style snack or meal.

Labeling is Overrated

To market a beverage as a snack most effectively, Kalt says it might actually be a good idea to do away with conventional daypart labeling altogether. What is a snack for one person, she says, might be a meal for another.

The Hartman Group’s 2013 report, “Modern Eating: Cultural Roots, Daily Behaviors,” echoes Kalt’s observations, citing a decline in traditional meals and a rise in snacking.

“To specify a particular meal period when [an item] should be used is potentially limiting,” she says. It’s often more important to focus on other strengths, like portability or freshness rather than relegating it to a specific time.

Juice exemplifies a beverage’s ability to blur the line between snack and meal. While some consume fruit and veggie juice blends at breakfast, Kalt says, others use it as an afternoon meal replacement.

My Fit Foods makes sure not to restrict its options based solely on perceived daypart acceptability, since most of its guests purchase several meals and snacks at a time.

“While we don’t necessarily have customers come in more or less often during the snack daypart, our guests are buying snacks throughout the day to take with them,” Wilson says.

Ultimately, cross-functionality trumps labels, Kalt says. “That all-day appeal is really important.”

Beverage, Feature