Getty lad drinking

There’s no questioning the importance of the soft drinks category to forecourt retailers. Your shoppers are buying soft drinks at an astonishing rate and with the summer comes the peak time for sales.

Simplifying the shopping process would seem a given in a busy shop environment but according to Britvic, in its 2023 Soft Drinks Report, getting the basics right could deliver a further £96m, or £2,006 per store, in annual soft drinks sales by 2025.

It says that means paying closer attention to the fundamentals of retail. Apparently out-of-stock products cost the category £80m a year in lost immediate consumption sales with 44% of shoppers saying they’ll go elsewhere if they can’t find the drinks they want (IGD data).

Layout is another key to driving additional sales. Britvic’s research found that by ensuring fixtures have clear blocking and are optimised to improve the shopper journey, retailers can increase volume sales by as much as 12.5%.

The company advises that a minimum of two facings helps to ensure availability and allocating space depending on a category’s size and growth potential ensures optimal fixture performance.

It also says that it’s important to prioritise chiller space for drinks that shoppers want to consume cold. However, if a retailer has limited chiller space, it would make sense to move lower value products, like plain water, to ambient shelves and prioritise higher margin drinks.

Simplifying the shopper process is one of Britvic’s five key pillars to driving sales of soft drinks for immediate consumption. The others are:

• Recruiting Gen Z worth £72m or £1,500 per store

• Winning with food, worth £80m or £1672 per store

• Maximising health, worth £52m or £1,086 per store

• Evolving energy, worth £100m or £2,089 per store.

Getty GenZ

Generation game

Anyone born between 1997 and 2010 is part of Generation Z, as such they make up 15% of the population, which means there are 10 million of them.

These young people are online all of the time with 97% of them owning a smartphone. They are typically more conscientious about what they buy than many other shoppers and expect brands to be ethical and to show it. Britvic says that building a genuine emotional connection with Gen-Zers and exciting them with new flavours, promotions and propositions is key. That all sounds like a job for the suppliers and manufacturers but forecourt retailers can do their bit by stocking the brands that tick the right boxes and then promoting them on social media. Retailers will all have Gen-Zers among their staff so engage them and get them to update your ‘socials’.

Gen-Zers rate new flavours as the top influence on purchase decisions, so Britvic says it is doing its bit to attract these shoppers by investing in a growing range of limited-edition and permanent brand extensions to drive excitement.

Getty soft drinks and food

Food for thought

Britvic says that in the past year, Brits have drunk soft drinks as an accompaniment to food on 65 billion occasions. Most of these occasions were lunch and dinner, but soft drinks’ consumption with afternoon snacks is growing, up 11.8%.

With more consumers swapping going out to eat for staying at home, there are obviously sales to be had here but the size of those sales depends on retailers and their suppliers encouraging shoppers to pair food with soft drinks. Britvic says identifying shopper missions and offering compelling deals will play an important role in this.

The company has already used concepts such as Hunger Busters – which paired two-for-£2 promotions on products such as bottles of Tango and cans of Pepsi Max with Walkers Crisps and Doritos – to help retailers capitalise on afternoon snacking.

In addition, to show how well Pepsi Max goes with food, there is the new Better with Pepsi Max multi-channel campaign. Part of the campaign links the cola to KFC while other activity has leading foodies demonstrating recipes that pair well with a chilled Pepsi Max.

Over at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), they have just run A Recipe for Magic campaign featuring Gigi Hadid and celebrating the ‘magic’ of shared meals in a bid to increase sales of soft drinks to go with food.

Martin Attock, vice president of commercial development at CCEP GB, said: “Cola is the most popular sparkling soft drink consumed at meal times in GB but many shoppers are still looking for meal planning inspiration. Cross-category displays and merchandising solutions in store can help increase basket spend, prompting shoppers to add a soft drink to their evening meal purchase.”


Healthy growth

More people today are looking after their health – or they say they are! According to Mintel, more than half (58%) of consumers say they want to see healthier soft drinks in retailers’ ranges and 65% of people who drink carbonated soft drinks say added health benefits would make them buy them more often. And, of course, healthier drinks command higher prices. So-called health benefits vary from one person to another. One person may want sugar free while another might want vitamins and minerals.

Sugar free is covered, big-time, already in forecourt stores with sugar-free versions of soft drinks probably outnumbering full-sugar versions in many outlets. However, not everyone things sugar-free, which usually means the absence of sugar but the presence of artificial sweeteners, is healthy.

It is interesting to note that Coca-Cola Original Taste was the largest contributor to cola category sales in convenience outlets last year, with sales growing by £38m (+14.3%). Britvic says this was partly down to shifts in channel mix: full-sugar colas outperform in symbol group and independent retailers and because of this channel’s growth and its sheer scale, full-sugar cola grew by 12.8% while no-sugar cola grew 10.3%.

One brand that has new added health benefits is the Robinsons with Benefits squash range. Its launch follows the successful launch of Robinsons Benefit Drops last year.

There are three flavours: Robinsons Vitality Peach, Mango & Passion Fruit, boosted with vitamins B3 and D which helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue; Robinsons Immunity Orange & Guava, boosted with vitamins C & D to support the immune system; and Robinsons Boost Raspberry, Strawberry & Acai, boosted with vitamin B6 to help recharge consumers’ batteries.

In its Soft Drinks Report, Britvic points to the fact that health needs can differ depending on the time of day. It says Purdey’s Natural Energy’s range, for example, is great for pick-me-ups for pre- and post-work gym goers. Alternatively, Aqua Libra can serve as a naturally refreshing, sugar-free ‘livener’ with a healthy snack in the afternoon.

It therefore advises retailers to pair healthy drinks and snacks with promotions and rotate offers at different times of the day, balancing ranges between indulgent and health-orientated drinks and providing education at the fixture.

Red Bull

Energy boost

According to IRI data, £757m-worth of ‘stimulant’ or energy drinks are sold in the convenience sector every year and we all know how well they sell through forecourt stores. But, according to Britvic, there are even more sales to be had.

Its report says that the £96.9m growth in energy drink sales last year was achieved despite the fact that only 8% of shoppers currently buy them in convenience. It says offering a wider array of energy drinks would attract more people to the category.

It points to choice ie by offering alternatives to the traditional energy drinks such as more natural drinks and also making sure that a good range of sugar-free energy drinks is available. It also advises using beacon brands to signpost the category.

Obviously the beacon brand for energy drinks is Red Bull. Indeed Britvic’s report has it as the most valuable soft drink brand in convenience, with sales up 17.6% last year to £336m.

It also came in at number two in the Top 10 launches of 2022 with its Apricot & Strawberry flavour serving up £1.84m-worth of sales.

Red Bull’s latest Summer Edition is called Juneberry, which is described as a mix of juneberry (which tastes like dark cherries or raisins), red grape, cherry and red berries and has a slightly floral taste. Red Bull looks likely to have another hit on its hand as the company says Juneberry performed particularly well in consumer taste tests, with the highest purchase intent of any previous Summer Edition. The company says flavours are essential in driving sports and energy sales, particularly over the summer, with many of the shoppers buying the new flavours, incremental to the category.

Lucozade Energy also features in Britvic’s list of the most valuable brands to convenience retailers in total sales terms. Its sales were up 8% last year to reach £126m.

Meanwhile, Lucozade Alert is now worth over £12m in value sales and is currently seeing over 89% year-on-year value growth. This is a high caffeine energy drink with Vitamin B3 to help combat tiredness.

Brand owner Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I, recently unveiled a new can design across all three flavours: Cherry Blast, Tropical Burst and Original Lucozade.

Aoife McGuigan, head of Lucozade Alert at Suntory, says 75% of Lucozade Alert’s sales are incremental to the category meaning the brand encourages trial and drives sales.