Summer is key to the entire soft drinks market and retailers need to ensure that their fixture is balanced to reflect seasonal category uplifts in order to generate maximum profits.

From June to August – the crucial period for soft drinks sales – shoppers purchase 15% more soft drinks than any other time of the year, with water, flavoured sparkling water and other flavoured carbonates seeing the most benefit (IRI).

Despite Covid restrictions in Summer 2020, the UK saw a 44% increase in BBQs, with 100 million of these taking place between April and August (AHDB).

And with 73% of the population expecting to have a UK staycation in 2021, retailers can expect this trend to continue.

The balance of Drink Now and Take Home Soft Drinks changed during lockdown as social occasions moved to ‘in home’ and, while we expect ‘food to go’ shopping missions to recover, the warm weather, combined with sporting events and longer evenings creates the perfect opportunity for retailers to continue to drive take home sales by inspiring and exciting their shoppers.

“As the trend of health continues to grow, so does the range of products that are available to shoppers,” comments Adrian Troy, Marketing Director at Barr Soft Drinks. “However, taste remains the number one reason for shoppers to choose a soft drink and it is essential that retailers offer a wide choice of flavours to satisfy their many different needs.”

Plain water was significantly hit during lockdown, both from a Drink Now and Take Home perspective, with shoppers switching their spend into flavoured sparkling water as consumers are not prepared to compromise on taste when looking for healthier options.

Flavoured sparkling water delivers 50% more value through retailers’ tills (IRI) so retailers need to ensure they have the right balance of products in their stores to meet shopper needs and maximise their sales.

The other biggest growth area in the summer is flavoured carbonates, which sees a +17% seasonal uplift, with new trending flavours accounting for 80% of sales last summer (IRI). Carbonates remain the backbone of the fixture, worth £1.8 billion and accounting for 66% of the total convenience soft drinks category (IRI). It is one of the most important categories for retailers to get right and shoppers are looking for a good range of great-tasting, fruity flavours.

Amy Burgess, Senior External Communications Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners GB, comments: “Consumers continue to make positive changes to their lifestyles, with 63% saying they are trying to be healthier. Since 2015, we have reduced the sugar in our portfolio in GB by 22% – surpassing our ‘20% by 2020’ target – and now two thirds of our volume in GB now come from low or zero sugar soft drinks.”

CCEP has seen continued growth across consumer favourites in its light colas range – including Coca-Cola zero sugar, which has recently been relaunched. The new Coca Cola Zero features a brand-new, striking and sleek look and an evolved, refreshing taste, offering consumers the best Coca-Cola experience, still with zero sugar and zero calories.

The Fanta Zero range also remains in growth (Nielsen). In mixers, CCEP has seen increased popularity of Schweppes Slimline Tonic, growing by 20% year on year (Nielsen).

“Dedicating space in store to products with the strongest sustainability credentials is becoming more important,” adds Burgess. “It’s the right thing to do for the planet, and it’s an increasingly important factor in consumers’ buying decisions. In fact, post-Covid, consumers’ motivation to buy products made with recycled materials has gone up.”

As of September 2020, all plastic bottles across CCEP’s core brands made in GB – including Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper and Lilt – are made with 50 per cent recycled plastic, a fact which is communicated on-pack.

In early 2020 CCEP also moved its entire GLACÉAU Smartwater range – including 600ml and 850ml servings – into bottles made from 100% recycled PET plastic.

“Consumers are becoming more adventurous than ever and are looking to experiment with new and exciting variants of their favourite soft drinks,” says Burgess. “More than a third of shoppers (35%) agree that they like trying new things when grocery shopping, so it is increasingly important for wholesalers to keep an eye out for the latest flavour innovations launching this summer.”

To make the most of the growing demand for innovation, CCEP evolved its flavoured carbonates portfolio even further in 2020 with the launch of Fanta Raspberry. The new variant has already delivered sales worth almost £3m in GB, contributing to an impressive 31% of the Fanta Zero brand’s growth in the last year (Nielsen).

CCEP expanded its Light Cola range further with the launch of Diet Coke Sublime Lime, combining the taste of Diet Coke with a refreshing citrus twist, which has delivered £5m worth of sales since launching in January 2020 (Nielsen).

In energy, CCEP recently added three new flavour variants to its range – Monster Mule, Monster Ultra Fiesta and Monster Juiced Monarch – to tap into growing demand for new flavours in the category.

72% of energy sector growth over the last year has come from new products (Nielsen). Much of this is thanks to the huge success of Monster’s new variants which contributed to over half of this (Nielsen).

Mark Tanner, Head of Wholesale and Independents at Carabao Energy Drink UK&I, comments: “Carabao’s ‘Taste of the Nation’ report revealed that consumer attitudes towards energy drinks are centred around three key trends. Great taste: 71% of shoppers said they would likely purchase an energy drink if it tasted great, yet only 8% agreed that the energy drinks on offer did actually taste nice. Lower sugar: 48% of shoppers perceive energy drinks to be unhealthy. Better value: 18% of shoppers felt energy drinks were too expensive.”

While the demand for healthier energy drinks was already very evident pre COVID, the current pandemic has made shoppers even more conscious of what they consume and the desire to buy lower sugar, healthier drinks has skyrocketed, with 89% of shoppers expressing an aspiration to eat & drink more healthily (IGD).

Since the release of Carabao Energy Drink’s PMP cans across Original, Green Apple and Mandarin Orange single serve (330ml) products in June 2020, and then later the launch of Mixed Berry PMP in November, the brand has seen excellent value sales growth.

Carabao offers both PMP and non-PMP’s, and on the back of the successful introduction of its PMP range Carabao has now introduced its newest and best-selling flavour, Mixed Berry as a priced-marked pack. Carabao Mixed Berry, at only 63 calories per can, is the perfect addition to the already thriving range of ‘only 69p’ products. Mixed Berry was the #2 energy launch in the total market for 2020 YTD (Nielsen).

Carabao has had a strong start to 2021 and is the fastest growing brand among grocery multiples for both unit (+164%) and value (+108%) sales. Not only that, Carabao is also one of only 3 brands within the energy drink category to be in unit and value growth (Nielsen).

When looking at data from the end of 2020, moving into 2021, Carabao is the fastest growing brand for units (+258%) among convenience multiples with value growth of +107%.

“With current consumer trends in mind, it’s absolutely important for retailers to ensure that low sugar soft drinks are well represented in the chiller,” says Tanner. “However, this should not be at the expense of great taste, retailers require a range of products that can satisfy both trends to keep ahead of the curve.”

Nichola Grant, Channel Marketing Manager, Highland Spring Group, comments: “In terms of growth opportunities, the Sparkling Water subcategory has emerged as a star performer and is worth around £17.2m. Perhaps previously overlooked or reserved for special occasions, the last eighteen months has seen a real trend towards sparkling natural source water, which is ideal for those looking for a little lift as part of their day.”

This increase in demand for sparkling water could be a result of the implementation of the sugar levy or due to a shift in public opinion towards its popularity and its refreshment cues. The occasions when it’s drunk are wide-ranging, including when consumers are out and about, travelling, relaxing at home and even while exercising. Sparkling Water is a perfect alternative to sugary fizzy drinks and many consumers prefer adding it to alcoholic drinks as a mixer instead of soda water. As a leading brand, Highland Spring Sparkling Water is currently growing 1.2%, making it a must-stock for retailers (Nielsen).

“When it comes to Bottled Water, weather plays an important role in shopper purchasing decisions, with the warmer summer months seeing an increase in soft drinks sales as consumers look to stay hydratated,” adds Grant. “Retailers should ensure their fridges remain well stocked, especially throughout periods of hot weather in order to meet the growth in consumer demand.”

While the state of the market as a result of COVID-19 is still uncertain, we do know that, now more than ever, our health is of crucial importance and natural source water provides the healthiest way to keep hydrated and feeling good. Even as the country slowly moves out of restrictions, multipacks and multi-buy promotions will continue to help drive the category, catering for more at-home occasions.

“Multipacks should be highlighted as a key product for the in-home occasions, merchandised alongside other multipack healthy snack options, as well as fresh fruit,” suggests Grant. “Promoting Highland Spring 1.5L Still and Sparkling Water as part of a ‘Dine in’ or ‘Big Night In’ meal deal provides the opportunity to maximise sales with those shoppers looking for less indulgent soft drinks, particularly mid-week. In particular, sparkling natural source water should be included in lunchtime meal deals, as it offers an everyday treat and a healthier alternative to carbonated drinks.”

Local restrictions have meant that shopper behaviour has fundamentally changed, which has had an impact on the way they shop the category. However, standing at a value of £219.4.m (Nielsen), Bottled Water remains a crucial part of the soft drinks category.

‘Drink Now’ is the largest subsector within Bottled Water, but with more people working from home, the out-of-home lunch occasion has shifted to in home, meaning fewer shoppers are taking advantage of the impulse opportunity at front of store. As shoppers stay at home for longer periods, the opportunity has emerged for retailers to cater to more in-home occasions. For example, lunch at home is now a key opportunity for natural source water, leading to a shift in ‘Drink Later’ formats, which sees larger bottles and multipacks currently driving the category at 4.9% growth in the last 12 weeks (Nielsen). Therefore, retailers should think about how they can highlight and cater for this occasion in store.

Looking at the long-term perspective, the big night in is likely to remain a key opportunity as shoppers experience more restrictions on their everyday lives in the wake of the pandemic, and potentially become more cautious about how they spend their disposable income. This represents an opportunity, particularly for Sparkling Water and ‘Drink Later’ options. Stocking a selection of bottle formats, cap types and pack sizes from recognisable brands will help retailers meet the needs of ever-changing consumer demands.

“It’s important that retailers stock best-selling products that shoppers know and trust,” advises Grant. “Highland Spring is the leading bottled water brand in convenience, outperforming total market, so is therefore a must-stock for retailers to ensure shoppers can find their favourite brand. During the summer, retailers should ensure that they focus on availability throughout the day, hydration being important at all day parts. Having product available at all times is vital to enable shoppers to pick up the products they are looking for with ease.”

Environmental sustainability will continue to underpin everything the Highland Spring brand does, and 2021 will be a strong year for the brand, with its ongoing partnership with Hubbub seeing the roll out of the on-the-go programme #InTheLoop to more UK cities, and plans to support Recycling Week 2021. Highland Spring will also be increasing the number of products available in recycled plastic (rPET), continuing to focus on ultimately reaching 100% rPET across all its products, as well as introducing products that tap into more shopper needs and occasions.

Angela Reay, Brand and Innovation Controller at Nichols, comments: “The soft drinks industry has seen a dramatic switch-up in consumer trends as a direct result of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

COVID-19 is creating a more challenging economic background for shoppers,”

A significant number of consumers are adapting to become ‘thoughtful shoppers’, with 21% in particular looking to take advantage of special offers and discounts as they sought out value-for-money items (IGD). As value for money will likely remain key for consumers, PMPs will remain a tried and tested way to communicate value and build trust with customers.

Nichols offers PMP options across its portfolio. One of its latest additions, launched in 2020, is Levi Roots Tropical Punch – a mix of pineapple and sweet mango, available in a 500ml PMP. Levi Roots has seen exceptional growth in the Impulse channel, growing +13% in value during the last 12 months, outperforming the category sector by +13% points (Nielsen).

Stocking a range of squash options, such as Vimto No Added Sugar Squash can help retailers drive added value into the balanced lifestyle trend,” adds Reay. “In order to maximise this opportunity, we also recommend maintaining a broad interesting range of low-sugar soft drinks, offering consumers great tasting options that cater to balanced lifestyle choices.”

A Red Bull spokesperson comments: “Products that deliver added value for a range of summer occasions, such as multi-vitamins, protein or a functional energy boost, continue to be popular. Summer presents a huge opportunity for retailers to boost sales of soft drinks, as customers look for cool, refreshing options.”

Red Bull continues to drive growth across the wider market, embracing changes in shopper behaviour has boosted sales £35.4m vs YTD last year (Nielsen). Shoppers are also putting more Red Bull in their baskets, more frequently and Red Bull will continue to support this positive category growth throughout 2021.

In the latest six months, Red Bull sold 32.5% more Sugarfree volume through multipacks (Nielsen), with these variants also growing penetration by 24.6% (Kantar).

Red Bull Energy Drink 250ml is worth over £135m. “We believe this is the perfect pack size for Functional Energy and it fits most consumers’ energy needs, containing the same amount of sugar as a glass of apple juice and the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee,” the spokesperson adds.

Red Bull Zero relaunched into the market in early 2020 with a reformulated taste profile to appeal to shopper demands. Red Bull Zero has sold over 1m cans since launch and is one of the biggest NPD contributors of growth to the overall Sports & Energy category, adding almost £1.5m of value as part of Red Bull’s £35.4m YTD growth vs 2019 (Nielsen). Due to strong rate of sale, trade and shopper demand for this pack, a Red Bull Zero 250ml four-pack has launched to meet these needs.

Red Bull also announced in October 2020 that its Watermelon Summer Edition, launched in July, will be made a permanent SKU, extending the existing Editions range and will be renamed the ‘Red Edition’. Originally positioned as a ‘limited time only’ product, Red Bull Summer Edition’s rate of sale is in line with the top launches in Sports & Energy, as shoppers bought over 150,000 cans within just one month of launching (Nielsen). Responding to shopper demand, Red Bull has now made the Red Edition a permanent SKU in the Editions portfolio.

Adam Hacking, Head of Beverages, Arla, comments: “Despite a backdrop of weakening Flavoured Milk performance, the Chilled Coffee category continues to drive category growth and is now worth £154m and growing at 18.6% MAT). Worth £79.9m and growing at 25.2% MAT, Starbucks is now the biggest iced coffee brand, responsible for 50% of all iced coffee sales.”

The Soft Drinks category has been widely influenced by trends and regulation, which has led to consumers searching for healthier, more functional alternatives across all occasions. Fresh recipes and flavours are entering the category and innovation has led to growth in dairy drinks and innovation across sub-categories such as RTD Coffee which appeals to both health conscious and time pressed consumers.

With a prediction to grow at a minimum 15% CAGR across the next three years (Mintel), RTD Coffee continues to be one of the fastest growing sub-categories within Soft Drinks. As such, Starbucks recommends that retailers stock a range of different ready-to-drink products in order to appeal to different consumers looking for on-the-go options throughout the day. For example, popular with Gen Z, the Starbucks Frappuccino range has experienced the highest level of growth 53.8% (Nielsen).

There has already been a noticeable shift in the way in which consumers shop the Iced Coffee category and this is something that is likely to continue to change throughout this year. Previously, Iced Coffee has predominately been enjoyed in a RTD format, but as it becomes more established and its household penetration continues to grow, it’s expected that consumer consumption habits will align to the total soft drinks category, which sees 63.6% of value sales come from multi-pack or multi-serve offerings (Nielsen).

Matt Gouldsmith, Channel Director, Wholesale, Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I, comments: “In recent months we’ve seen an increase in drink-later formats, which are growing by 8%, with multi-packs driving growth +9.4%. Our portfolio replicates this, as we’ve seen strong growth of 9.1% in Lucozade Energy’s and 9.9% in Ribena’s drink-later portfolios.”

In fact, the top three 1L Lucozade Energy SKUs represent 22% (IRI) of the brand’s total sales, meaning it’s increasingly important grocers have a larger format offering in-store for this demand.

However, there is encouraging evidence that the impulse and drink-now occasions will re-emerge as lockdowns are relaxed.

“As local and national lockdown restrictions continue to be reviewed, we’d advise retailers to pay close attention to the needs of their shoppers and adapt their soft drinks range accordingly,” suggests Gouldsmith. To help grocers cater for shoppers drinking more soft drinks at home, Suntory has reduced the on-pack price of some of its most popular drink-later products, including Ribena 600ml squash and Lucozade Energy 1L format drinks. Reduced to £1.50, these drinks will tap into the continued popularity of price-marked packs, and the growth in sales of drink-later formats.

“The reduced PMPs across our Ribena and Lucozade Energy drink-later range offer a lower everyday price to consumers – at a time when many shoppers will be looking for increased value from their regular purchases,” adds Gouldsmith. “Now is the perfect time for grocers to capitalise on the popularity of the drink later format with a new reduced price-marked pack.”

To help grocers make the right choice on what to stock Suntory offers the option of price-marked or non-price-marked packs across its range of soft drinks, including leading brands Lucozade Energy, Lucozade Revive, Lucozade Sport and Ribena.

Ongoing trends, such as the demand for lower-sugar drinks, will likely continue throughout the category irrespective of the radical changes brought on by coronavirus. There has been a long-term trend towards drinks with lower sugar as consumers are becoming more aware of their health and wellbeing.

“With 45.8% of soft drinks shoppers agreeing they “try to lead a healthy lifestyle”, retailers should ensure their chillers are stocked up on lower-sugar soft drinks such as Ribena Light and Lucozade Zero – now worth a combined £45.7M – to capitalise on the ongoing trend towards lower-sugar choices,” advises Gouldsmith. “In fact, this segment of the market is extremely important in contributing to the growth of take-home soft drinks with Diet & Zero drinks growing 19.3% and outperforming the total drink-later market.”

Flavours is another strong area of growth for the soft drinks category. The Lucozade Energy range has already contributed a significant £60.7M (IRI) worth of sales to the energy category, showing just how important it is for retailers to offer a diverse selection for shoppers to choose from. Most recently, Lucozade Energy introduced a cool new addition to its category-leading range – Lucozade Energy Citrus Chill. Available in 380ML PMP and standard packs, the new lemon & lime flavour alone has already added £1.73M (IRI) in category sales.

Wayne Thompson, Business Unit Controller, OOH at Yazoo, comments: “The Flavoured Milk Category is currently worth over £382million, and within this, YAZOO, the number one traditional flavoured milk brand, remains a popular soft drink choice. People spent more time at home last year than ever before, we expect this to carry over heavily into 2021, pandemic or not, so consumers will be looking for brands that deliver as well at home as they do out of home. Household names have an opportunity here to maximise their reputations and see growth.”

YAZOO is best served chilled but has the added benefit of being ambient. With a shelf life of up to nine months, it is an ideal addition to a store cupboard or pantry, ready to be transferred to the fridge as and when consumers desire.

“As we respond to the growing demand for take-home drinks and treats, our one litre formats have been permanently available in our best-selling core flavours: Chocolate, Strawberry and Banana,” adds Thompson. “It is a welcome addition to a big night in and tastes great straight from the fridge poured into a glass at home (our one litre milk drinks are currently growing at 17% compared to the market at 6%).”

 

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