Not a week seems to go by without another soft drink being launched onto the market as manufacturers are keen to cash in on the latest trends.
And according to Nigel Paine, GB commercial director of out-of-home at Britvic, those trends include offering adults more choice; stocking drinks for positive wellbeing; cashing in on seasonal events; and, of course, delivering lower calorie/lower sugar choices. So let’s take a look at these trends one by one, starting with adult soft drinks.
"Adults tend to drop out of soft drinks as they get older, moving towards hot drinks, alcohol or even tap water," says Paine. "If adults stay in the category longer there is a big opportunity to grow soft drinks sales.
"Products such as J2O Spritz are geared towards more sophisticated adult tastes, providing retailers with solutions that respond to this trend."
Another response to this trend, again from Britvic, is the launch of Drench in two sophisticated sparkling variants: Raspberry & Cranberry and Grape & Elderflower, which are available in a 330ml can format to meet the needs of the 30-plus target consumer. The new flavours, which contain no artificial sweeteners, colours or flavourings, include a combination of juices and spring water, designed to give a generous flavour hit. The use of naturally sourced stevia sweetener in the drink also taps into the lower-sugar trend.
Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), reports that adult soft drinks, including the company’s Schweppes and Appletiser brands, are performing well, and are proving to be a popular choice for at-home social occasions following a 19.3% increase in future consumption formats over the past 12 months (Nielsen data).
The Schweppes range received a boost earlier this year with the launch of three sparkling juice drinks to help retailers further benefit from the increased popularity of adult soft drinks. "With variants including Grapefruit & Blood Orange, Orange & Cranberry and Lemon & Elderflower, the range has been designed to offer a selection of sophisticated options, with bold fruit flavours. They also appeal to the increased demand for lighter drinks with just 20kcal per 100ml the lowest calorie count within the adult special drinks sector."
Britvic’s Paine says consumers have a greater understanding of what healthy living means and many have already come to realise that the health debate isn’t just about sugar content or counting calories. "There is now a greater demand for products that deliver sustained energy, rather than the highs and lows associated with sugary drinks. This is signalled by the growth in functional drinks and the plateau of energy drinks. As a result, products that offer consumers vitality credentials or added health benefits, such as Purdey’s, are likely to grow in popularity."
New to soft drinks’ shelves is Tranquini, a drink that’s distributed by RH Amar. The brand is looking to shake up the functional drinks market and create a new ’relaxation’ drinks category in the UK.
Featuring naturally occurring ingredients including green tea extract with natural theanine, chamomile, lavender and lemon balm, that are scientifically proven to reduce stress and relieve anxiety without causing drowsiness the five-strong range comprises: Tranquini Original, described as having a pleasant fruity flavour; Jade, green tea notes with reduced sugar; Jasper, with ginger and lemongrass notes, a herbal taste and reduced sugar; amber with malted barley notes, a beer taste and low sugar; and Zero, for the diet-conscious consumer, containing a combination of sweeteners, including naturally sourced sweeteners from the stevia plant. Each comes in a 250ml can, rrp £1.29.
Sam Higgins, senior brand manager at RH Amar, reckons that following on from the success of relaxation drinks in the US, there are strong signs that the UK functional drinks category is ready for a relaxing alternative as consumers look for something to take the edge off their day without turning to alcohol.
"Tranquini tastes superb and delivers a form of positive relaxation in a natural and enjoyable way. With an exciting and sizeable launch plan that includes extensive consumer sampling in-store and at key events supported by a strong promotional plan to accelerate awareness and trial, we’re confident that the relaxation benefits of Tranquini will resonate strongly with UK consumers."
Lower calorie choices
As the media spotlight continues to focus on sugar and with the sugar tax on certain soft drinks still to come there’s a strong case for more sugar-free drinks. "Within impulse, we’ve seen sugar-free products grow ahead of full sugar, with 57% of low-calorie soft drinks growth coming from energy and cola (Nielsen data)," says Britvic’s Paine. "We can expect this to grow in importance so providing products that respond to this trend will be key. Pepsi, for example, has focused above-the-line messaging on Maximum Taste, No Sugar, heroing the Max variant and, as a result, Pepsi was the number one brand contributor to impulse channel growth, up 9.8%, adding £10.6m to the channel (Nielsen)."
CCEP’s Burgess adds: "There will be a continued focus on the innovation of lower or zero calorie products to cater for increasing consumer demand. In line with this, CCEP has introduced a number of new lighter soft drinks such as Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Monster Energy Ultra and the reformulation of Coca-Coca Life in recent months. We are investing £30m (2012-2017) in reformulation and new product development, all of which is focused on providing great-tasting lower and no sugar drinks. Since 2005, we have launched 27 new drinks with reduced sugar or calories and everything we sell has a lower or no sugar option. This underlines our commitment to helping consumers enjoy as wide a choice as possible, while enabling retailers to increase their sales by offering more options for consumers."
Meanwhile, Gusto Cola, which launched here last month, is described as the UK’s first natural, Fairtrade and low-calorie cola. It’s made using a blend of organic botanicals and spices, including African cola nut, Fairtrade Madagascan vanilla, neroli, cinnamon, nutmeg and coriander, to create a complex yet authentic cola taste.
Suitable for vegans and vegetarians, it contains just 50 calories per 250ml can, as it’s sweetened with a combination of organic and Fairtrade cane sugar, organic stevia leaf extract, a non-calorie sweetener and Erythritol, a natural zero calorie sweetener made from fermented plant material. Gusto Organic says this winning combination reduces the calorie level of Gusto Cola to less than half the calories of regular cola.
AG Barr has been busy launching lower caloriethirst quenchers under the Rubicon brand.
New Rubicon Spring combines sp arkling spring water with fruit juice and has 15 calories or less per bottle. Each of the four full-on flavoured variants Strawberry Kiwi, Lemon Lime, Orange Mango and Black Cherry Raspberry has no added sugar, contains vitamins and green tea extract and is made with natural flavours and colours.
AG Barr’s head of marketing, Adrian Troy, says that prior to the launch, the company undertook its biggest-ever research programme to fully understand the key drivers behind changing attitudes towards health.
"The research highlighted an 18% growth in the number of carbonates shoppers who are also buying water and a 19% rise in the number who only buy water (IRI/IGD data). Many of these consumers are primarily looking to reduce their sugar and calorie intake.
"What makes Rubicon Spring so exciting," he says, "is that it appeals to consumers across different categories. For those wanting a healthier alternative to a fizzy drink or fruit drink, it has all of the low calorie and healthier benefits of spring water.
"And for those coming from water or flavoured water where taste can often be bland and disappointing, it has a big hit of Rubicon flavour."
Light & Fruity
Then there’s Rubicon Light & Fruity, a new range that delivers the exotic Rubicon taste, but with half the sugar. "Innovation, choice and health are the three key drivers for purchase within ambient juices, with products delivering on health and taste driving the majority of category growth," says Troy.
"With 40% of shoppers actively looking to reduce their sugar intake, and 75% looking for more exotic flavours, Rubicon Light & Fruity can deliver incremental sales for retailers as a low-calorie alternative that really delivers on flavour." The new line-up includes a Light & Fruity version of the brand’s best-selling Mango flavour, alongside two other blends: Mango & Coconut and Mango, Lime & Mint.
While taking advantage of impulse purchases in the warmer months is a sure way to drive sales of soft drinks, driving demand in colder months is also important and can be achieved by linking to relevant events.
"Supporting sporting events, or taking advantage of seasonal events such as Halloween and Christmas, present a huge opportunity for retailers to grow their sales whatever the weather," says Paine.
Halloween is a growing occasion and CCEP is marking it with the return of special-edition packaging across its Fanta range, while extending the activity to include special packs of Sprite Zero for the first time.
The limited-edition packs, which are available now, are ’haunted’ by spooky jack-o’-lanterns and a ’Trick or Treat’ slogan across 2ltr bottles of Fanta Orange, Fanta Orange Zero, Fanta Fruit Twist and Sprite Zero, as well as six x 330ml and eight x 330ml multipack can ranges. The return of the Halloween-themed Fanta packs follows their success in 2015, which saw Halloween become the second highest selling seasonal event for soft drinks overtaking Easter, with sales of Fanta growing faster than its nearest fruit carbonate competitors in the weeks leading up to the event (Nielsen data).The Halloween packs are supported by themed in-store visuals, pos material and an outdoor advertising campaign.
Caroline Cater, operational marketing director GB at CCEP, said: "Halloween is becoming a more significant consumer event each year, and our special seasonal packaging can play a key role in helping retailers to make the most of the incremental growth opportunity as people stock up for their celebrations.
"Last year’s activation saw our sales growth exceed that of the category as a whole, and we’re looking forward to seeing a similar impact during this year’s event."
pepsi max Recycle drive
As part of its environmental commitment, Britvic in partnership with plastics recycling organisation Recoup, launched a consumer competition to encourage festival-goers to recycle their empty PET bottles.
It all took place at the recent Fusion Festival in Liverpool, where acts including Olly Murs, Busted and Jason Derulo, attracted some 25,000 people.
Large Pepsi Max recycling bins were sited near to Britvic’s soft drinks bar to catch the attention of those buying soft drinks. When consumers returned to recycle their bottles, their efforts were rewarded with a goody bag made from recycled plastic bottles containing an entry form for a prize draw. Every hour throughout the festival, Britvic drew one lucky winner who was awarded a pair of Golden Circle wristbands allowing them access to the VIP area in front of the stage.
Over the course of the two-day festival, 10,000 PET bottles were recycled via the bins and collected by the Recoup team. The activation was part of Britvic’s overall environmental strategy which aims to not only reduce the waste produced by consumers but also to drive awareness around the importance of recycling waste materials in order to preserve our environment.
Value remains a key focus for shoppers and this trend is already being addressed within the convenience sector with retailers offering price-marked packs (PMPs) and tiered, affordable alternatives. But Adrian Troy, head of marketing at AG Barr, believes some forecourt retailers have been slow to react to these shopper demands for value alternatives.
"By not offering mid-tier choices, PMPs and stronger promotional incentives they are risking loosing footfall in store," he says, adding that all of Rockstar energy drinks’ popular flavours are available in 99p PMPs.
Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), adds: "Shoppers are increasingly looking for quality products at low prices from their convenience store, and we’re helping to deliver value to consumers by focusing on PMPS within convenience outlets.
"In indies and symbols, the MyCoke 500ml PMP range is currently worth £42m and is growing by 18.8% year-on-year (Nielsen data). Our research shows that focusing on PMPs can have a direct impact on helping retailers to achieve incremental growth, with 11% of shoppers claiming that they are most influenced by PMPs when deciding on a particular product to buy in a convenience store (him!)."
Meanwhile, the Red Bull price-marked family has seen positive market growth, with the 355ml can up 27% in value sales year-to-date versus last year (Temple data).
To continue driving this growth, Red Bull has reduced the rrp of its 355ml price-marked can from £1.59 to £1.49.
"Irn-Bru is probably our biggest seller as we sell it in lots of different formats including glass bottles.
"Cans of Irn-Bru are also included in our meal deal alongside other cans such as Coke. It’s a £3.50 meal deal for a sandwich, crisps and a drink.
"Lucozade is another big seller for us; we’ve just had the bigger bottles on at £1 and we always sell out of them. Likewise 2ltr take-home packs of Pepsi are very popular. We do well with take-home packs generally, for instance we sell a lot of the eight-packs of Irn-Bru.
"Water is another popular line, particularly when it gets hot. We sell Ice Valley and Smartwater."
Give your sales a Boost
Boost has launched its biggest ever consumer campaign Release the Boost to communicate how the drink provides incredible energy, sensational taste and is a fraction of the price of its competitors.
To spread the word, quirky radio advertising that takes the listener through the roller coaster ride of energy experienced when opening a can of Boost aims to reach millions of new consumers, supported by digital banners placed across sites such as Spotify and the Daily Mail.
Online activity will give consumers the chance to win great prizes such as £1,000 in cash or the opportunity to create a trip of a lifetime, with £5,000-worth of holiday vouchers to spend on an unforgettable experience such as swimming with dolphins or visiting one of the seven wonders of the world. Additionally, a direct university sampling campaign will get Boost into the hands of over 350,000 students.
This month sees the brand’s experiential activity kick off in Manchester, Birmingham and Belfast to ’Release the Boost’ to passers-by. The activity will hit high footfall areas within the three cities during peak times and will see street teams creating excitement around the brand. They will be on hand with samples to get consumers to try the product, offering on-the-spot prizes and encouraging them to interact with the brand online.
Advertising, PR and social media will also support all of the activity.
Boost strategy director, Kirsty Birks, says: "Retailers across the country should really see the benefit of our consumer marketing activity this autumn. We have enjoyed great success and have grown to become the UK’s number two volume brand (IRI data). As such we are keen to capitalise on this and extend our reach to new customers. This series of activity is our biggest push to date and aims to engage customers and raise awareness of Boost."