Soft drinks manufacturers have always been quick to respond to changing consumer demands and 2014 has been no exception. Over recent years consumers have been leaning increasingly towards drinks that contain fewer calories and even though our industry has led the way in providing such choices soft drinks companies recognised there was more they could do.
Through the Government’s Responsibility Deal calorie reduction pledge soft drinks companies set themselves some ambitious targets including reducing the calorie content of existing products. This is no mean feat. As we have seen in the past the reformulation of popular food and drink brands does not always sit well with the consumer so any variation needs their acceptance, too. But this industry has a track record of innovation and soft drinks companies have relished taking on this challenge; in the last 18 months we have seen a significant number of these products on the market and also many reformulated own label drinks whose suppliers include BSDA members.
Where reformulation has not been a practical option some companies have decided to remove some products containing added sugar from their ranges whilst many others have chosen to vastly increase the availability of smaller pack sizes.
However, this does not mean that reformulation has stifled innovation. Current EU legislation has limited the reformulation options open to manufacturers so further calorie reduction is also being driven by entirely new products entering the market like Trop50 and more recently Coke Life.
Of course soft drinks manufacturers have been reformulating and creating new products for many years now, but what is different is the focus on encouraging consumers to choose drinks containing low or no calories.
As part of their commitment to help consumers make healthier choices soft drinks companies are also voluntarily increasing the proportion of their advertising and marketing expenditure on these drinks. The UK’s leading manufacturers are increasing their collective advertising spend on low and no calorie drinks by 49% in 2014 – up nearly 70% since 2012.
Soft drinks companies have used a variety of initiatives to achieve their calorie reduction goals and I am delighted to say they are already meeting them. In the last two years calories in soft drinks have been cut by 3.6% and sugar reduced by 4.2%. While soft drinks contribute just 3% of calories in the average UK diet this reduction in calories and sugar is a significant achievement.
The pattern is reflected in by consumer spending patterns. Purchases of low and no calorie drinks are up 5.3% since 2012 compared to just 0.8% for regular drinks. During the same period purchases of diet carbonates are up 2.7% while sales of regular carbonates are down by 2.7%.
Consumer needs are clearly changing and as an industry we have responded. There is a soft drink for every occasion and consumers are entitled to choose whichever drink suits them but by providing a wider variety of drinks and increasing the availability of smaller pack sizes we can encourage and improve the choices our consumers make.
Gavin Partington, The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) Director General