Sip of Success: Testing the Latest Beverage Launches

From Starbucks’ Pink Drink to McDonald’s Grimace milkshake, there’s no shortage of innovative beverages on menus across America’s restaurants. Recently, McDonald’s has also launched its new specialty drinks-focused concept CosMc’s to bring in customers who need to quench their thirst. It’s clear that beverages cannot be overlooked in the tastebuds race.

But with so much competition in the QSR and casual dining sector, how can restaurants break through the beverage noise to get customers in the door and returning again and again? Innovation is a complex process that involves not only back-of-house teams like R&D, marketing and finance, but front-of-house managers and team members who help promote and serve the product once it’s on the menu.

Some brands trial products at locations regionally before determining whether to launch them nationally or globally or leverage focus groups during the development process. Many invest in advertising campaigns across linear and connected TV, out of home and digital channels to build awareness and interest in their latest menu creations. And in some cases, user-generated content across TikTok and Instagram can propel a new product’s success.

Thankfully, there’s a way to gain additional confidence in your ideas. We put the latest beverage launches to the test to show you how it works.

Better than a Taste Test

System1’s Test Your Innovation is an emotion-led innovation effectiveness platform that harnesses real consumer insights to accurately predict the commercial success of ideas. This includes new products, taglines, brand characters, logos and more.

With its Star Rating system, the platform provides a clear measure of predicted in-market potential using a 1.0 to 5.9-Star scale. The Star Rating is derived from how ideas perform on Emotional Response, Share Trading indicators and Decision Speed:

  • Emotional Pull: Measured by System1’s FaceTrace® tool, Emotional Pull gauges the emotional response to ideas, indicating their potential to resonate with consumers.
  • Share Trading: This metric predicts market success by assessing whether respondents would “Probably Buy” or sell shares in each idea, providing valuable insights into consumer behavior and preferences.
  • Decision Speed: Decision speed in the trading game measures how easy an idea is to understand and the likelihood of being chosen. Fast ideas receive positive weighting, while slower ideas are penalized, offering a nuanced understanding of consumer engagement.

Because Test Your Innovation allows brands to determine the potential of ideas from an early stage, it can help narrow the focus for R&D teams that are trying to pinpoint the best flavors or flavor combinations and even colors, as well as designers and marketers who are looking for assurance on packaging, logos, product messaging and more.

The Beverage Stars of Summer 

So, which recent drink debuts are poised to be winners? We put some of the buzziest beverages into Test Your Innovation, like Starbucks’ spicy lemonade and IHOP x Pepsi’s Maple Syrup Cola, along with some that are being put to the test in select locations, like Taco Bell’s Agua Refrescas.

Let’s take a look at the top three beverages:

Only 5% of ideas score in the 5-Star range, but Sonic have pulled it off with a slush float that leverages a favorite flavor – orange – to evoke familiarity and happiness. Audiences remarked it’s a “tried and true flavor profile,” that they love “anything frozen” and 89% agreed it’s “easy to understand.” Not only does the innovation achieve the highest levels of happiness in our test, but the intensity of all the combined emotions is greater than it is for any of the other ideas.

Coming in strong at #2 is Taco Bell’s Agua Refrescas, which scored 4.2-Stars. Consumers noted they liked the fruity flavors and feel it’s a refreshing balance and “combines perfectly” with tacos. As for areas of improvement, respondents suggested introducing additional flavors as there are many fruits which Taco Bell can feature.

Burger King exceeds the country average of 2-Stars with its 2.8-Star Frozen Cotton Candy beverage. Respondents enjoyed that the chain was offering a slushie, but some had doubts of the true flavor of cotton candy beyond just sugar. Some consumers noted that while the flavor is not their preference, they feel kids will love it and others suggested offering different colors of cotton candy and building in more flavors.

Getting to the Heart of Innovation Success

Zeroing in on the emotions that innovations evoke in consumers is key to their success. This is because the more people feel, the more they buy. And happiness is an incredibly powerful emotion.

That’s why Test Your Innovation leverages System1’s FaceTrace™ technology to pinpoint how consumers feel about ideas, from happiness to surprise to disgust, contempt and even neutrality, as well as how intensely they feel these emotions. Verbatims help uncover the reasons for these emotions and suggestions for improvement to help brands further enhance the commercial potential of ideas.

In addition to providing metrics on your ideas, Test Your Innovation has a database of over 54,000 ideas to benchmark against. Plus, Guidance from System1 enables brands to dive deeper into the results and understand how to further improve ideas, like adjustments to flavor combinations and colorings to packaging to product names.

Discover the predictive power of this platform today.