With her Victoria’s Secret shopping bag, Coach sunglasses, and iPhone, 25-year-old Jennifer Dermody telegraphed “fashionista” as she strolled Newbury Street. Still, one accessory, she worried, wasn’t sending quite the right message: the Starbucks iced tea that was front and center in her look.
“I feel like people are judging me by my drink,” she said, looking unhappily at the plastic container in her hand, and explaining that the company’s sleek, white, hot-beverage cups make her feel “more Newbury Street.”
No one has compiled numbers on what might be called the “mobile beverage segment,” but judging by the number of Americans who can’t seem to walk without constantly hydrating, one thing’s clear: like talking on the phone, drinking a cup of coffee — or a bottle of coconut water, or a can of soda — has become less private act than performance art.
Food-and-beverage industry analyst Harry Balzer summed it up this way: “You are not what you eat, but what I think you eat.”
This is increasingly true as the country shifts from eating in restaurants to taking food out, said Balzer, a vice president with the NPD Group, a market research firm. In 1985, the average American bought 94 meals at a restaurant and ate them inside the restaurant, Balzer said. During the same year, the average American bought 85 takeout meals. Today, we eat 74 meals inside a restaurant, and carry out 120 meals. “This makes our diet a lot more visible to others,” he said.
John Sicher, the editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, uses the term “badge value” to describe the status certain drinks attain. (This is distinct from the outlaw status sugary drinks over 16 ounces have attained in New York City.)
The idea of beverage as personal branding is a concept that resonated with Mariana Galstian, 32, as she hung out on Newbury Street on Monday afternoon, a latte from a locally owned coffee shop by her side. Her bag was Tory Burch, her sandals Steve Madden, her sunglasses Prada . . . and her coffee was Espresso Royale Caffe.
“I would never hold that,” the real estate agent said, gesturing to a colleague’s Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, which was in a plastic cup inside a Styrofoam cup. “It would make me look like I don’t care about the environment.”