When it comes to soft drinks, forecourts are different to every other retail channel. In multiples grocers, multiple convenience stores, independents and symbols, colas reign supreme, outselling every other type of soft drink. But in forecourts it’s the functional beverages that do best. Think Red Bull, Lucozade and Relentless to name just three.

According to Britvic’s latest report, soft drinks sales were worth £263m through managed forecourts last year. And 28% of those sales were of functional drinks, worth £74m and up 9% on 2005 figures.

Red Bull is the UK’s number one energy drink with a 29% share of the market. It also claims to be the number one selling soft drink by cash rate of sale in impulse outlets. A single can when sold at the rrp of £1.20 offers the retailer a profit on return of 42% (when bought at the standard cash and carry case price of £14). No forecourt should really be without it as Red Bull’s research has found that the brand’s consumers are very loyal with 40% saying they’d go elsewhere or without, if they can’t find the product in store.

Those loyal consumers will now be jumping for joy however, as their favourite drink is available in a larger can after a successful pre-launch trial in BP. The 355ml size has a rrp of £1.49.

Imogen Pudduck, head of customer marketing and category management at Red Bull, comments: "The launch of the new big can is aimed at adding value to the category as the Red Bull portfolio now offers consumers choice for a variety of drinking occasions. As well as the standard can, we have the two-pack which allows consumers to have one for now and one for later; the multipack for take home and now the 355ml can which gives consumers the extra energy they seek immediately."

One company that’s been doing a lot of work across the forecourt sector is GSK with Lucozade. Last summer it ran a very successful ’Refuel your car. Refuel yourself’ campaign which resulted in a 24% increase in value sales across the travel market, which includes forecourts. This year’s campaign is all about energising Britain and giving consumers their ’edge’ back. Helen Tomlinson, category planning controller at GSK, says one of the reasons for the brand’s success is that it engages consumers in store. So for this year’s campaign consumers will see interactive gondola ends as well as signage and posters in BP, Esso and Total sites. Activity will run now and again in the autumn and includes cinema, outdoor, online, press, mobile and radio advertising, as well as a brand experience road show. And for the first time, Lucozade Energy will be using consumer-generated content online. A bespoke website [http://www.getyouredgeback.com] will showcase moments when people have ’Lost their edge’. Consumers will be allowed to submit their own stories for a chance to win £10,000 and a starring role in a Lucozade Energy ad, as well as being able to claim a free bottle of Lucozade Energy.

Meanwhile Lucozade Sport is building on its 34% growth last year with the launch of two new flavours: raspberry and tropical. These replace mixed berry and lemon.

While still a relatively new brand in forecourts, Relentless from Coca-Cola Enterprises enjoys the third highest cash rate of sale for energy singles, according to AC Nielsen forecourt figures for the 12 weeks to November 11, 2006.

Simon Hawkins from the Relentless brand team says this is testament to the "strength and relevance of the brand in this important environment".

He adds: "Forecourts out-punch their weight within the sector where energy drinks enjoy the highest cash and volume rate of sale of any other channel. It is imperative that energy-needy motorists and convenience consumers have ready access to the sector."

Hawkins says 2007 is an important year for the Relentless brand in forecourts, where it hopes to enjoy significant distribution gains. The brand’s point of difference is that it’s sold in a 500ml can with a ’no half measures’ message to appeal to 18-35-year-olds for whom a 250ml can is not enough. It is backed by £1.5m-worth of multi-media activity during 2007, focusing on sponsorship and sampling aligned to core action sports, MotoX and modern rock music.

Meanwhile Powerade enjoyed 24.9% growth last year, according to Nielsen figures, and a £5m media campaign for 2007 is expected to build on this. The aim of the activity is to widen Powerade’s appeal to everyday sports enthusiasts and make the drink part of the consumer’s sporting routine.

Sarah Mitchell, head of sport and energy at Coca-Cola Enterprises comments: "Only a third of consumers currently buy sports and energy drinks so we see great potential in driving brands such as Powerade into the mainstream by broadening their consumer appeal."

An energy drink that’s new to the UK is Go Fast, launched by the recently established Go Fast Sports & Beverage Co. Described as "America’s original energy drink", Go Fast contains a herbal blend designed to help maintain peak performance and offer a longer, more sustained energy boost. It contains milk thistle herb, vitamins B-16 and B-12, taurine, ginkgo biloba, ginseng and guarana.

Since its launch in 2001 in Denver, Colorado, the brand has grown quickly and is currently available in 18 countries worldwide.

It has a close affinity to extreme sports such as base jumping, sky diving and jet skiing. Marketing activity therefore includes targeted sponsorships, bespoke sports events, sampling and high impact stunts to create excitement using Go Fast branded props including a jet pack and human slingshot.

== Coke is still it ==

Despite the undoubted success of functional drinks, no forecourt should ever be without cola and in particular Coca-Cola. Anita Huntley, head of marketing for Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), reports that Coke and Coke Zero are growing at 8.7% in total and 10.4% specifically through impulse outlets. "Zero in particular has been a significant success within the independent retail channel delivering incremental sales growth of £7.6m after only nine months in the marketplace," she says.

The big news from CCE this year is the launch of limited edition Coca-Cola orange. Available from July, it will be offered in three key pack sizes: 500ml and 2ltr bottles plus a six-pack of 330ml cans.

The launch will be supported by a £2.5m media campaign throughout July including sampling and outdoor advertising.

CCE’s limited-edition flavour strategy aims to drive excitement in the category. Huntley says Coca-Cola with lime was a big hit last summer particularly as more than 40% of its launch volume was from new buyers and increased purchasing, which helped deliver incremental growth to the sector.

== Clear refreshment ==

Sales of water continue to grow. Across the whole retail trade they leapt by 11% last year to reach £643m. And sales through multiple forecourts grew 2% to reach £50m. Despite strong sales growth, there is still a huge opportunity for water in the UK when you compare our consumption to that of other countries. Last year the UK consumed 22.7ltrs of water per person however the French drank 100ltrs per person, the Germans 133ltrs and the Italians 136ltrs.

Evian is the best-selling water brand in the UK with a 15.7% share; Volvic takes the number two slot with a 13.1% share. Evian is backed by a £3m campaign this summer, which highlights the benefits of hydration for the body.

Steve Flanagan, category sector manager at Danone, (responsible for Evian and Volvic), comments: "Retailers need to be aware that bottled water is now seen as a drink of choice and so it needs to be given the space in store that it deserves. Brand names are increasingly becoming a factor in the consumers’ decision making process, so stocking the best-selling brands is imperative."

== Fruitful ==

According to the latest AC Nielsen data, chilled juice sales are growing by 13.9% in multiple forecourts. Tropicana is of course the UK’s best-selling juice and in multiple forecourts it is worth £5.6m with growth of 14%. Tropicana Pure Premium has a 67.2% share of the chilled juice category within forecourts and its on-the-go format is enjoying sales growth of 26%.

Must-stock lines for forecourts include Tropicana Pure Premium original and smooth 330ml; Copella Apple 330ml; Tropicana Essential Multivitamins 330ml; and PJ Smoothies Strawberries & Bananas 250ml. Sales of smoothies leapt by 582% in multiple forcourts last year, which is great but it needs to be put into perspective. Smoothies account for just 1% of soft drink sales in multiple forecourts, worth £1m.

Across all trade sectors, the smoothie market was worth £137m with consumption rising to 34 million litres in the UK. Innocent has a 66% share of the category (IRI Infoscan w/e 24/02/07), equating to £89m.

Innocent’s commercial director, Giles Brook, says: "Smoothies are an ideal way for people who are commuting or those who are on longer journeys to grab something healthy and tasty while they are on the go."

He says mangoes & passion fruits and strawberries & bananas are the two most popular recipes therefore any forecourt stocking Innocent for the first time should start with these.

The brand recently introduced a smoothie of the month to allow combinations that use unusual fruit to get to market on a regular basis. The May smoothie is mangoes, coconuts & lemongrass followed by cherries & strawberries in June.

Brooks says Innocent is also looking at running smoothie and sandwich promotional activity in the coming months: "We’ll be working really closely with outlets to encourage add-on sales through better point-of-sale merchandising and mechanics - such as coupons - which encourage joint purchases, such as meal deals."

There’s a lot of activity in the juice and juice drinks market as manufacturers capitalise on the healthy eating trend. Big squash brand Robinsons is launching Smooth Juice, a 100% pure juice with added barley for a smooth texture. It comes in a 1ltr bottle in orange, apple and apple & blackcurrant flavours. Then there’s Robinsons Fruit Shoot 100% Juice for kids.

And AdeZ, Unilever’s fruit juice and soya drink is now available in a 250ml pack. The brand’s best-selling flavours - mango & apricot and blackcurrant & raspberry - come in the impulse pack, which has a rrp of 99p.

The brand was launched in May 2006 and is already worth £8.2m. A £10m spend supports AdeZ in 2007.

And GSK’s Helen Tomlinson reckons forecourt retailers who think Ribena is just for kids, should think again. She says it’s the number six brand in impulse and therefore definitely a must-stock for all forecourts. "Forecourts should focus on the 500ml pack rather than cartons as sales of these are up 11% year-on-year according to AC Nielsen figures."

The brand has been very successful in attracting older consumers through the launch of different pack formats and by branching out away from just blackcurrants.

Ribena Really Light Blueberry ready-to-drink, for instance, is already worth £2.2m almost a year after it was launched, with 50% of sales incremental to the category. A £7m spend supports Ribena this year.

== Milk it ==

Another drink that’s not just for kids is the milkshake - you’ve only got to watch the number of adults purchasing them at McDonald’s to realise this. However one brand in particular targets men and that is For Goodness Shakes. Jeremy Martin, marketing director at My Goodness, describes it as a "nourishing, manly sports drink".

"The soft drinks category is full of ’me too’ products which all compete against each other but For Goodness Shakes stands alone as the only milk-based sports drink for men."

He says the drink was developed by athletes, a fact that has helped the company build a strong masculine brand that the predominantly male forecourt customer can identify with.

"If you look around at what healthy food options are available for men to grab on-the-go at a forecourt, there is very little. Too many of the health food products available are aimed solely at women, and the majority of milkshakes are aimed at children.

"For Goodness Shakes fills a void in the market by providing a nourishing manly sports drink for after exercise, for breakfast or for the building site."

Martin says total sales of For Goodness Shakes are currently around 250,000 units a month, across supermarkets as well forecourts -including BP and Total.

He adds: "The milk category is ripe for development and we see it as a huge growth area for forecourts.

"We want to boost our presence on forecourts as we see them as the ideal stop-off point for our target consumer - the active male."

Elsewhere in milk drinks, Masterfoods has launched a frothy Maltesers shake. It has a malty, chocolatey taste plus a special ingredient - consumers have to shake the bottle for 10 seconds to create a bubbly drink that aims to replicate its confectionery counterpart.

Meanwhile Masterfoods’ Galaxy drink now boasts its creamiest ever recipe. It also comes in a larger 310ml bottle. In all, Masterfoods has an 11% share of the UK flavoured milk market, and claims to be the fastest-growing manufacturer in the category.

There really is something for everyone in soft drinks however the trick for the forecourt retailer is making sure you’ve got something for your particular customer profile.


=== Case study ===

Kashif Iqbal is director of Express Service Stations, which has three forecourts with Spar stores in Scotland (Abronhill, Seafar and Clarkston). He says soft drinks are an extremely important part of his product mix.

"Red Bull sells brilliantly but Coke is still our number one soft drink. We have a massive range of soft drinks in our chiller but most people want water, Coke and juice - the Feel Good range sells particularly well. Sales of still drinks are definitely up but it doesn’t seem to be affecting sales of other drinks - people just seem to be buying more all round. We have noticed a big switch from full fat to diet drinks. Coke Zero did well - our Coke sales are up overall but definitely some original Coke and Diet Coke drinkers have switched to Zero. Pepsi Max has not been hit by Zero at all."

Kashif also has quite a wide range of take-home bottles. "Our shops are big - around 2,000sq ft - so we are more of a small supermarket or convenience store than a typical forecourt shop. We get a lot of people who use us as a supermarket so we need the take-home drinks for them."


=== Soft drinks: the hard facts ===

? In 2006 the soft drinks category grew by 8% to reach £5.9bn. Sales have grown 44% since 2001.

? The UK’s annual per capita consumption rose 4% to 251ltrs - a 22% increase since 2001.

? Overall, Coca-Cola, Lucozade and Robinsons were the top three brands.

? In multiple forecourts, functional drinks accounted for 28% of sales followed by cola with 26% and water with 19%.

? In multiple forecourts, fastest growth came from smoothies with sales up a massive 582% - however the category still only accounts for 1% of sales.

? There was good growth from adult soft drinks, up 11% in multiple forecourts.

? Sales of fruit-flavoured carbonates performed poorly across all trade sectors and were down 20% in multiple forecourts.

Source: Britvic Soft Drinks Report