Changing Tastes: Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Whether you’re five or ninety-five, you probably drink at least one non-alcoholic beverage per day. Despite this, the non-alcoholic beverage industry has seen a steady decline over the past few years. Is this driven by more interest in healthy foods, a change in tastes, or something else? Our latest total market study was designed to learn more about consumers’ beverage preferences and uncover the drivers behind the trends.

Multicultural Consumers are More Loyal

Hispanic and African-American consumers typically stick with their favorite brands when shopping for non-alcoholic beverages. They’re less likely to be swayed by a sale or coupon. On average, 27% of consumers say that  they purchased a non-alcoholic beverage because of a sale.

Millennials are Breaking Norms

Millennials have different preferences and behaviors than older generations, including affinities for “trendy” beverages. They’re more likely to consume energy drinks, bottled coffee products, non-dairy milk alternatives, and flavored milk. Their coffee habits are arguably the most different: they’re more likely to drink coffee out-of-home, consume quick-prep and bottled products, and enjoy it cold.

Healthy Matters, but Means Different Things

All consumers indicate that the claim “no artificial ingredients” indicates that a beverage is healthy. However, the meaning of “healthy” varies by ethnicity. The claim “natural” is the strongest indicator of health for both Hispanics and Asians. African Americans consider “no sugar added” as the biggest health marker, and non-Hispanic White consumers rank “high in vitamins and minerals” at the top.

Now, let’s dive into a few sub-categories: milk, coffee, and soda.


    • Consumed at home most of the time, usually during breakfast.
    • Milk alternatives have increased drastically in the last five years.  A quarter of consumers, across ethnicities, prefer them.
    • Nutritional value is the main purchase driver for milk, especially among Hispanic and non-Hispanic White consumers.
    • Unflavored, 2% is the most popular cow milk; almond and soy are the most popular alternatives.


    • Coffee is one of the most consumed non-alcoholic beverages, preferred by most over tea.
    • Two-thirds add sugar, cream, or milk. The remaining third drink it “black.” This type of consumption is driven by Hispanic and non-Hispanic White consumers.
    • Traditionally, consumers drank fresh-brewed hot coffee in their homes. Although some millennials still do, many prefer quick-prep, cold, and on-the-go options.


    • Big decreases in consumption over the past five years, but majority still consume it weekly.
    • Regular and diet options are polarizing; clear preference for regular soda.
    • Those who choose regular soda do so for the taste, while those opting for diet do so for health.
    • Consumers who don’t drink soda cite unhealthiness and dislike of taste as the two main reasons.

What Does this Mean for Marketers?

It’s important to take preferences and health perceptions into account when communicating with different ethnic backgrounds.

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