Soft drinks were one of the top-performing categories within convenience in 2017,  and continued to be a key driver of footfall to convenience stores, according to the latest Britvic Soft Drinks Review. 

Britvic has also unveiled its new category vision, entitled Drink Differently, which reveals a lucrative £2.6bn soft drinks sales opportunity over the next five years, by adapting to the evolving consumer landscape and ensuring soft drinks remain relevant to all consumers and all occasions, across all channels.

Last year soft drinks featured in 20% of all convenience shopping baskets, making it the top category purchased, ahead of newspapers and milk for the fourth year running. As a result, the category grew in value by 2.3% to be worth £2.1bn, which Britvic says reflects the category’s ability to successfully evolve to meet changing consumer needs including the growing demand for healthier soft drinks.

Health and the Soft Drinks Industry Levy - which comes into force this week (April 6) - continues to be one of the major trends for soft drinks. Britvic claims to have removed 20bn calories since 2013 on an annualised basis in an effort to help consumers make healthier choices.

The Britivic report reveals that in 2017, sales of diet soft drinks - including low-calorie and low-sugar drinks - drove absolute value sales growth across all the sub channels, increasing by +12.3% and adding £49m in value sales to the category. 

The cola segment grew by £21m, equating to 4.2% value growth in convenience, with 76% of this growth coming from the diet segment. Leading ’no sugar’ cola brands such as Pepsi Max and Coke Zero reaped the rewards of the continued demand for healthier soft drinks, with sales up by £11m and £8m respectively, year on year .

Other sub categories which continued to see growth included ‘Water Plus’, with brands such as Glaceau Smartwater and Robinsons Refresh’d enjoying strong performances. Meanwhile, energy drinks saw the biggest absolute growth of all sub categories, up £31m, driven predominantly by strong performance of Monster, Rockstar and Red Bull Energy brands.

Findings revealed in the Britvic Soft Drinks Review show that for the younger generations, purchasing a soft drink was the number one reason for visiting a convenience store. In 2017, nearly 50% of all Generation Z shoppers (16-24 year olds) bought a soft drink when visiting a convenience store, increasing to over 50% when they are purchasing food to go. Younger shoppers are increasingly turning to their local convenience stores and purchasing on the go, a trend Britvic says retailers can combine with the demand for healthier choices to drive sales of ’no and low sugar’ products, to future proof the soft drinks industry.

Trystan Farnworth, commercial director, Convenience & Impulse at Britvic, said: “There’s a really positive story to tell for soft drinks in convenience at the moment. The results showcased in this year’s review show that the category is in good health. Britvic is well placed to navigate through the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and we’d encourage all convenience retailers to look upon the levy with a view of maximising the opportunity to provide healthier choices, rather than minimising the impact.

“It’s also interesting to see the opportunities that no sugar cola and Generation Z shoppers are bringing to soft drinks. We also believe that there is plenty of potential for soft drinks category growth to continue, providing that manufacturers and retailers remain agile and can successfully adapt to meet the ever-evolving demands of consumers. At Britvic, we are committed to doing just that and providing the industry with innovative soft drinks, as well as supporting retailers and customers with category advice and industry insight to maximise all soft drinks missions, ensuring that we work together to continue to drive the category growth even further in the future.”

Meanwhile, Britvic’s research has identified five drivers of category growth which are key to unlocking the £2.6bn soft drinks sales opportunity revealed through its Drink Differently category vision:

• Created for kids – Create tasty, healthy & exciting soft drinks which are loved by kids and trusted by parents.

• Especially for adults – Motivate more adults to choose soft drinks, becoming their preferred choice on more occasions

• Inspired lifestyle choices – Nudge the nation towards positive drinks choices, every day

• Elevated food moments – Elevate every food moment with the perfect soft drink partnerships

• Sensational social experiences – Create sensational social experiences re-defining the possibilities for soft drinks

John Campbell, commercial operations director at Britvic, said: “The consumer landscape and the way people live their lives is fundamentally changing and now is the time for the category to evolve. Soft drinks must adapt in order to maintain, but also grow their relevancy amongst consumers. At Britvic, we want to share our insights with customers and work together to identify new opportunities to grow the category, all by getting the nation to Drink Differently.”