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[Flickr: Julian Stallabrass]

For half a century, we've looked to Coca-Cola and other stalwarts like Sprite, Pepsi, Fanta, and Mountain Dew to whet our thirst and wake us up. But as we move into 2013, chefs and consultants are laying out their predictions for this year's culinary trends, including changes in the soda scene. The latest report [pdf download] from restaurant consultant group Baum + Whiteman notes a few continuing trends in the soft-drink world:

  • Upscale restaurants, trying to stand out from the pack, are making their own small-batch sodas using fresh and local ingredients.

  • Consumers seem to be abandoning cola, seeking 'fresh' or fruit-flavored carbonated drinks and smoothies with the illusion of health. Pepsi anticipates that flavored carbonated drinks will outsell colas by 2015, and flavors like hibiscus, pomegranate, lemongrass, and basil will pop up in mass-market beverages in months to come.

  • The chains and big brands are learning about flavor combinations from mixologists.

Another interesting soft-drink trend highlighted in the B + W report: soda machines that interact with people, like the Coke machines in Korea equipped with an "interactive dance machine" that rewards good dancers with sodas, or the machines in Singapore that trade Coca-Cola for hugs.

The National Restaurant Association's "What's Hot in 2013" report draws on a survey that went out to 1,800 professional chefs. Top trends? Children's nutrition and local sourcing. Both of which could be damning for old-guard sugary sodas, whose share of the lucrative children's market continues to decline as school cafeterias switch to juice and milk, and parents do the same at home.

In the Restaurant Association's report, 62% of chefs agreed that homemade sodas are a "hot" trend. In fact, homemade soda beat gourmet lemonade, organic coffee, agua fresca, and coconut water, among other things, to be labeled the hot trend in non-alcoholic beverages right now.

And you'd best believe that the old guard has its eyes on Israel's SodaStream. As sales of the big brand sodas continue to decline, the SodaStream machine—which allows customers to make their own carbonated drinks at home—is pulling in massive profits. The company has been around for decades, but is enjoying a spike in business right now that has ginned up enough profit to buy a Super Bowl ad.

So what do you think? Have you seen any of these trends in action? Think they'll stick? Noticed other trends cropping up in the soft-drink industry?

About the author: Jed Portman is blogging his way to that cabin in East Tennessee, one six-pack of soda and barbecue platter at a time. Follow him on Twitter @jdportman.

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