Young woman buying beer, standing in front of shelf,

In today’s marketplace, it’s downright silly to think that any food or beverage choice is shaped by demographics alone. By now, you’ve heard us talk quite a bit about the macro trends and need states influencing consumer beverage choices — but there’s a third ingredient that’s key to understanding those in-the-moment decisions. Occasion priorities like convenience, price, sensory preferences and brand experience have a pragmatic yet powerful influence on consumers’ journey down the beverage aisle.

Simplifying lives, one sip at a time

In our fast-paced world, we seek convenience in every aspect of our lives. There’s an inherent allure to simplification, like choosing a ready-to-drink beverage over the hassle of making one at home or stopping at a coffee shop. In any given beverage occasion, convenience can sway decisions significantly.

Balancing value and priorities

Price plays a pivotal role in consumer decision-making, but it is not the sole determining factor for beverages. Consumers consider the price relative to both competitors and the perceived value of benefits offered. A beverage’s price is also weighed against needs like health, energy, hydration and more.

Enjoying a multisensory experience

Beverages are uniquely sensory. Elements such as texture, temperature, scent and ambiance can all influence their overall perception. A fizzy drink might evoke feelings of excitement, while there’s nothing more refreshing than an ice-cold beverage on a hot summer afternoon. And it’s all about the “vibe” these days, so a buzzing new cocktail lounge and your local dive bar both could call for completely different choices.

Forging lasting connections

A brand's ability to communicate relevance to each of the six need states can influence product selection, as can personal experiences with the brand — both good and bad. But brands that also strike the right balance of convenience, price and sensory preference within a particular need state have strong potential for long-term loyalty.

So while macro cultural trends and intermingling need states help narrow the selection, the "when," "where," "why" and "what" solidify the beverage decision. Occasions offer consumers a context for their choices, allowing them to tailor their selection accordingly. So while the equation isn’t simple, understanding these interconnected forces can help immensely in better understanding consumers’ beverage choices and where your brand fits in.

More insights like this, including category-specific implications and opportunities, are available in our new Modern Beverage Culture 2023 report. Plus, there’s so much more occasion-based data where this came from! The Hartman Group’s proprietary Compass Eating Occasions Database is populated with 128,000+ respondents (covering 2012 through 2022), reporting 190,000+ adult eating occasions, plus an additional 44,000+ child eating occasions. Connect with Shelley Balanko to see how Compass data can help inform your strategy: