Brandon Grusd. Brandon Grusd.

Sugar is out but alternatives are in. This year we saw the implementation of the sugar tax and while this shows an official stance in the Middle East, it is a global trend we definitely saw coming.

Consumers have been communicating their stance for some time now and the industry has been listening. “Fresh” and “healthy” are two words that make up so many of the conversations consumers are having with their servers and with consumer fatigue having set in, the commonplace suggestions like orange and cranberry juice just aren’t making the cut anymore.

Expect to see juice menus grow with unique flavour combinations taking centre stage in beverage menus. Speaking of the stage, tea and coffee service has gone completely theatrical, with the inclusion of cold drip and chemex, the idea of this beverage now transcends the classic tea and coffee pot. Venues also realise that most people today can have a luxury coffee or tea at home but what they can’t achieve is being taken on a journey right there at their table.

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From camomile to kombucha and awabancha and everything in between, consumers in the Middle East are more educated than ever and are demanding a range of products that are not only driven by the health kick but also the impression it leaves on themselves and others too. A shift most might have noticed, and which can be seen in grocery stores across the Middle East are milk alternatives.

No longer are we consumed with the full fat vs low fat milk debate, now consumers are spoilt for choice, with a range of alternatives like; coconut, cashew, rice, soy, hemp and even pea milk. These developments form part of the healthy life choices movement and echo consumer sentiment which has led to the cascading regression on energy drink requests.

While not dismissing their place in the market, when given a choice, consumers are seeking out energy drinks as third line of defence against fatigue and are opting for alternatives.

The trend this year is “bespoke consumption”, we are potentially seeing individual’s palates develop due to the wide variety of products available in the market. We are in the era of consumer fatigue paying off and we will most likely spend the coming years reigning in this drink exploration to see what is practical, tasty and relevant. However, we are adding value to and engaging on all levels of drink and drink delivery, making the future very exciting.

By Brandon Grusd

A beverage consultant and enthusiast by profession, Brandon’s goal is to “change the way consumers around the world experience beverage”. Currently the group operations manager for Fling Bar Services, he was previously an independent bar consultant for a multitude of brands.