How Cold Dispensed Beverages Performed Last Year

Some c-stores are jazzing up their beverage bars with new flavors and functional drinks.

June 27, 2022

How Cold Dispensed

By Pat Pape

ALEXANDRIA, Va.— Sales of cold dispensed beverages improved in 2021 from 2020’s pandemic-battered performance as consumers returned to the soda fountain to see out their favorite self-serve drinks. In all, average sales of cold dispensed beverages grew 7.4% on a per store, per-month basis in 2021, NACS State of the Industry data indicate. Gross margin improved to 46.41% in 2021 compared with 42.71% in 2020.

Within this category of foodservice, the performance was uneven across subcategories. The average monthly sales of carbonated beverages per store slipped to $1,907 in 2021 from $1,976 in 2020. However, category sales share of “other” fountain beverages rose to 28.7% in 2021 compared with 19.1% the previous year. This segment includes drinks such as iced tea, iced coffee and kombucha.

Comparing consumer behaviors and sales figures of 2020 to those of 2021 can be hard to evaluate, said Patrick Loftus, survey research and data visualization manager, NACS.

“Overall, the increase in cold dispensed beverage sales per store, per month, likely has more to do with this offering being available for a full year versus being available for only part of 2020,” he said. “The decline in carbonated fountain is possibly due to a shift of shopper preference to non-carbonated beverages.”

Cold dispensed beverages represented 6.6% of foodservice sales in 2021, down from 7.2% of foodservice sales in 2020, NACS State of the Industry data indicate. Carbonated beverages accounted for 62.7% of cold dispensed beverage sales, down from 69.8% in 2020.

According to a recent report from Mintel, carbonated soft drinks make up the nation’s largest non-alcoholic beverage category, topping $39 billion in sales and with more than half of U.S. adults consuming them several times a week. But to grow the category, retailers and manufacturers must increase consumption frequency among lighter users, the research organization said.

Because a well-managed fountain bar can generate a 50% or higher margin, many convenience retailers are adding new offerings to tempt thirsty customers.

Read the remainder of the article, “Fountain Refresh,” in the June issue of NACS Magazine.

Pat Pape worked in the convenience store industry for more than 20 years before becoming a full-time writer. See more of her articles at