Indulgent, nostalgic flavors continue dominating social media

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

The ‘#freakshake’ hashtag on Instagram alone returns more than 115,000 posts. Pic: ©GettyImages/sveta_zarzamora
The ‘#freakshake’ hashtag on Instagram alone returns more than 115,000 posts. Pic: ©GettyImages/sveta_zarzamora

Related tags Flavors Trends

Sweet, indulgent beverages still shine in a market flooding with clean label, better-for-you drinks; and show no signs of slowing down, according to Imbibe.

Beverage trends with sticking power resonate with today's consumers, and indulgent flavors have been a recent hit with sweet treats across the board.

Indulgent and nostalgic drinks are among the top five beverage flavors that are dominating 2018 so far, according to Imbibe’s mid-year report​. Other trends are for veggie drinks, fruit flavors, earthy spices and culinary-inspired concoctions.

Find a Freakshake

There’s been a rise in nostalgia marketing across food and beverage, seen in the recent Sprite Remix and Coca-Cola Surge re-boots. The trend has spilled over into product development itself, creating new comfort food and classic drinks that invoke flavors of the past.

Items like Icebreakers Snow Cone Ice Cubes Glitter Gum, Ben & Jerry’s Gimme S’more Ice Cream and Rebel Yell’s Root Beer Bourbon all incorporate nostalgic flavors that “remind consumers of loving relationships and positive memories,”​ according to Imbibe.

Sweet treats have also found a sweet spot on social media. The ‘freakshake’ trend has ice cream parlors and specialty food shops piling different items of food on top of flavored milkshakes in mason jars, ready-made for Instagram posts.

The concoction originated in Australia and has since spread around the world. Toppings can include anything from marshmallows and sprinkles to entire slices of cake and donuts. The ‘#freakshake’ hashtag on Instagram alone returns more than 115,000 posts, while ‘#milkshake’ returns similar gourmet results with nearly three million posts.

“The ‘freakshake’ phenomenon propelled the #Instaworthy beverage craze, with over 100k posts on Instagram ... In the age of social media, visual appeal is always going to drive popularity,”​ Holly McHugh, marketing associate at Imbibe, told BeverageDaily.

Make it healthy

But the market is also undergoing a health craze at the moment. New startups are constantly launching ‘better-for-you’ functional beverages like kombucha and ‘clean label’ teas, the opposite of calorie-packed and sugar-laden milkshakes.

Brands are capitalizing on both trends by marrying the two. There are many more allergen-accommodating products available now than ever, including non-dairy, low-calorie and gluten-free.

This is seen in both food and beverage brands, like ‘light’ ice cream from Halo Top and Ben & Jerry’s and non-dairy drinks at mega-chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

“These types of flavors are popular on products that are positioned as better-for-you and consumers want to feel like they are eating for enjoyment regardless of the product composition,”​ McHugh said.

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