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As summer approaches, QSR customers are craving iced coffee and smoothies

Summer is here, so that means quick-service restaurants (QSR) are reinventing their upscale cold beverages. Look no further than the iced capps at Tim Hortons and the smoothies at McDonald’s and Starbucks. The trend makes sense since smoothies and iced coffees are a good way to increase traffic outside of the breakfast, lunch and dinner occasions.

What’s behind the love affair with smoothies? It turns out more consumers are receptive to “snacking” on a beverage, which is fuelling sales in the daypart. It’s why one out of every three smoothies or chilled coffees is served in the afternoon, surpassing other sales in the category.

In the five years between 2007 and 2012, servings of chilled coffees grew by 72 per cent at QSRs. Such beverages have shown consistent year-over-year growth over the past five years, but smoothies grew by an astounding 144 per cent — a number that has ballooned in the last 12 months.

The frozen fruit-infused treat represents a smart innovation opportunity for restaurants since it capitalizes on the growing in-home trend of Canadians eating more fruit. Over the past five years, fruit consumption at home has grown by 14 per cent; a trend reflected most among children under the age of 18 who increased their fruit consumption by more than 40 per cent. Fruit-based smoothies feed this trend, giving consumers their fruit fix on the run.

Overall, snacking accounts for approximately two-thirds of chilled coffee servings, which has opened new opportunities for the category outside of the traditional morning daypart. Interestingly, upscale iced coffees and smoothies skew towards Millennials, aged 18 to 34, who tend to be “liquid fuellers.” But, smoothies are kid friendly, too, making them suitable snacks Mom and Dad can endorse.

Operators should also consider infusing smoothies with ingredients that capitalize on the health-food trend. For example, providing options that boost protein or fibre can make smoothies more functional and customizable. But, don’t forget about the importance of taste, which often trumps nutrition among consumers.

Either way, Canadians continue to look for quick on-the-go solutions to fuel their busy days, and successful QSR operators should bank on upscale beverages to meet this demand.

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