It’s been an unmissable trend in recent years that UK consumers in general have been increasingly buying into the ‘low/no’ proposition, as awareness grows of the need for healthier lifestyles. In the soft drinks sector, the impending UK sugar tax is set to speed the rate at which more buy in and the pace at which manufacturers modify their product ranges to meet demand.

In the biggest news of the year so far on the ‘low/no’ front, Coca- Cola European Partners has brought out some bold non-core business NPD and announced that 95% of its brands are scheduled to be exempt from the sugar tax by this month. The CCEP web site makes it clear which these are. By the end of this year 50% of CCEP’s products sold in the UK will be low or no-calorie and by 2020 it will reduce the sugar content across its portfolio by a further 20%.

Leendert den Hollander, CCEP’s VP and General Manager UK says Classic Coke won’t be disappearing from shelves any time soon, but the company is committed to filling the gap in their portfolio between drinks with sugar and drinks with none at all: “It’s important to stay close to the consumer. People’s tastes differ but we need more choices in more channels.”

In the grocery channel 54% of Coca-Cola brand sales are ‘light’ variants, whereas in the convenience/impulse sector 68% of sales are regular Coke, showing Classic Coke’s enduring treat appeal in these outlets as well as the job to do to encourage retailers to grow sales of CCEP’s other products. Diet Coke was launched 35 years ago, followed by Coca-Cola Zero in 2005. CCEP remain wedded to their core business and are putting a hefty £25 million above the line into Diet Coke and Zero sugar, plus continued support for Classic Coke at Christmas.

CCEP has made a commitment to broadening beyond its core colas and carbonates business and there is a major activity programme lined up for CCEP’s other flavoured carbonates, including Fanta, Sprite, Capri-Sun and Monster Energy Drink. But the other big news is the launch of some new brands that are outside CCEP’s core business, which Simon Harrison, CCEP GB’s Customer Marketing Director says “amounts to a change in CCEP’s DNA.”

In Simon’s words, the big growth areas in the soft drinks market are tea, coffee, organics and plant-based beverages, hence the importance of Fuze tea, one of CCEP’s new launches this spring. Another new launch showing the breathtaking sweep of CCEP’s NPD vision is AdeZ, a healthy and tasty snack proposition, with seeds, fruit juice, vitamins and minerals, which contains no added sugar and is dairy free. In a market known for big brands with big visions, if CCEP can make a move like this, it throws down the challenge to the rest.

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