The soft drinks category should be high on every forecourt retailer’s priority list – after all, it’s worth a whopping £5.1bn in total with forecourts claiming £242m of that – and is growing at a rate of 10% (AC Nielsen MAT April 04). What’s more, the sector’s full of big-brand names and multi-million pound ad campaigns, which makes the job of selling them a whole lot easier.

“Over £5bn retail sales is a major achievement and is eclipsing the performance of other large grocery categories,” comments Britvic’s director of category planning Sue Garfitt.

Henry Dummer, customer marketing controller for convenience at GlaxoSmithKline, agrees. He says: “The soft drinks category traditionally outperforms other impulse categories such as chocolate confectionery, sugar confectionery and crisps and snacks and is therefore the category to watch for forecourt managers as consumers seek instant refreshment on the go.”


Colas are crucial to every forecourt’s soft drinks section and while all sorts of weird and wonderful soft drinks launches are rolled out, Coca-Cola remains a firm favourite. However, it’s not enough just to stock cans of Coca-Cola or Pepsi – sales of cans are dwindling as today’s customers want handy resealable bottles (which also offer greater profits for retailers) as well as 2ltr take-home sizes.

Britvic points out that in 2003, value sales of soft drinks in cans dropped by 8% while 500ml plastic bottles increased by 16% (AC Nielsen).

“Resealable bottles have seen massive growth over the past year as consumers look to a format that allows them to be refreshed and rehydrated while on the move,” explains Garfitt.

Manufacturers, of course, tend to be wise to these trends and pay particular attention to formats. This year saw new packaging for Pepsi as part of its Dare for More campaign with a fresh ‘family look’ given to 330ml cans and 2ltr bottles while ‘drink now’ 500ml packs have eye-catching embossed swirls. To prompt shoppers to pick up carbonates to take home, meanwhile, Britvic has introduced 4x500ml shrink-wrapped packs for Pepsi, 7UP and Tango. 7UP also has a new bottle shape, while Tango benefits from new graphics on pack.


Energy drinks are one of the fastest growing categories and are especially important in forecourts where they are worth £57m per year with a growth rate of 17% (AC Nielsen).

In multiple forecourts Red Bull is the number one selling soft drink by value (AC Nielsen Jun 04) with nine per cent of total soft drinks sales in forecourts.

Much of Red Bull’s success in forecourts comes from its continued targeting of motorists, and this month sees a continuation of the Red Bull driving campaign in forecourts. There is a particular focus on motorway service stations with poster advertising on the forecourt, pump nozzles and pos in store. In addition new branded open fronted chillers are being rolled out to Welcome Break and Moto sites, which the company says is contributing to a 33% increase in sales volume. Red Bull has also employed ‘energizing teams’ to talk to consumers about the benefits of Red Bull targeting business drivers, taxi drivers and lorry drivers.

Specifically for independent forecourts, Red Bull has appointed a new ‘driving activator’ to focus on increasing Red Bull sales through independents, and special pos material is available. The company has invested £3m in advertising and pos in service stations over the past 18 months and it says work will continue with category management trials using the Red Bull brand as signposting in store to drive consumers to the soft drinks and energy drinks fixtures.

Meanwhile, Britvic’s Red Devil has had a redesign to give it a clean, contemporary look on single cans and multipacks. The red and black colours remain but the comic-style devil has been replaced by a more sophisticated character. “The new Red Devil design generates much greater impact and confidence in the quality and effectiveness of the product,” says Britvic’s director of brand marketing, Richard Collins. “The packs reinforce Red Devil’s adult, premium focus.”

Shark has recently been focusing on its still version, which is purely a functional drink – drivers who feel tired behind the wheel are a core target. Already a huge success in Asian markets, the drink has now been adapted to Western tastes.

GSK’s Lucozade Energy is also a top seller through forecourts with the 50cl and 38cl bottles both popular. The brand continues to expand and recently introduced a Wild Berry flavour – a first for the energy category – backed by a record £2.5m investment. It also has an on-pack promotion backed by a bus and poster ad campaign. Lucozade Sport, meanwhile, has introduced a Mixed Citrus variant to add choice and incremental sales to the category.


Water is another star of the soft drinks category – in 2003, total sales were up 17.5% on the previous year with £1.8bn spent on bottled water, according to Nestlé Waters, which produces Perrier, Vittel and Buxton.

“The bottled water market continues to grow faster than any other sector of the soft drinks industry,” says Scott Sloan, managing director of Nestlé Waters UK. “This huge expansion in the market reflects the change in consumer lifestyles and shopping patterns. The impulse sector is becoming increasingly important as the big monthly or weekly shop is supplemented with daily visits.”

Sports caps are very important in this market and the best performing 75cl sports cap bottled water in the UK is Vittel, which is growing 66% in volume and 64% in value year on year (Zenith & Nielsen).

Volvic and Evian from Danone Waters also sell extremely well through forecourts, with Evian’s ‘Nomad’ 75cl bottle with a integrated carrying handle increasingly popular.

Highland Spring also has a 75cl sports bottle that was launched with forecourts specifically in mind. In fact, the company was so impressed with its performance in forecourts following a recent ‘txt & win’ promotion to win a Ducati bike that the company’s planning similar promotions in forecourts next year.

Anna McDonald, trade marketing manager at Highland Spring, explains: “The bottled water market is the fastest growing category in the soft drinks sector, however, it’s essential to keep it fresh with innovation and diversity. Consumers are constantly demanding something new and it’s vital to keep coming up with exciting ideas to keep them interested. We are keen to work with forecourts to develop promotional ideas that will appeal specifically to their customers.”

The company also points out that while 75% of volume sales of bottled water are in single bottles, there is a growing trend towards multipacks, which are growing at 55%. For this reason, Highland Spring has come up with a 6x500ml sports pack, which it says will help forecourts to cater for top-up shoppers. This month also sees the start of a back-to-school promotion for Highland Spring on its Natural Mineral Water for Kids, designed as a healthy alternative to traditional kids’ beverages. The 12-pack of 330ml sports bottles of still water normally retail at £2.99, but will carry an rrp of £2.49 in September.