As the “better-for-you” trend continues, consumers are looking to replace once-popular items with healthier versions. Some sectors have suffered more than others, such as packaged foods and artificially sweetened beverages. Carbonated soft drink makers in particular are seeing slumping sales, and they are continually struggling to keep consumers interested.
Carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) are still the largest beverage category, but they continued to lose both volume and market share in 2014. Volume slipped by 1% from 12.9 billion gallons in 2013 to less than 12.8 billion gallons in 2014, which lowered their market share from slightly less than 43% to just above 41%, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation. Bottled water and niche categories, such as energy drinks and ready-to-drink coffee, on the other hand, had an exceptional year. However, the latter two still remain relatively small sectors, especially compared to CSDs.
In response to this shift, foodservice operators are beginning to change their beverage options, especially on kid’s menus. McDonald’s was one of the first restaurants to remove soda from its kid’s menu back in 2013. Parent’s can still order soda for their child, but only milk, water and juice are promoted with the kid’s meals. It seems the move has actually made a difference, as the company reported only 48% of customers ordered a soda with their Happy Meals between July 2014 and May 2015, compared with 56% during the same period a year earlier.
Since McDonald’s made the change, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Dairy Queen have all made similar moves during 2015.
Now, DineEquity is the latest company to remove soft drinks from its children’s menu at its Applebee’s and IHOP locations. Applebee’s made the change in August, while IHOP just switched over in November.
Most companies have been relatively quiet about the change, switching their menus over without much fanfare. But as the list of chains replacing soda grows, it will likely spark a much larger movement within the foodservice industry.