Mother Nature had a lot to answer for last year. Dismal weather for most of the summer months didn’t just make for a rather dull season, it also led to a disappointing soft drinks performance.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the soft drinks category – especially in the forecourt sector. While most soft drink sectors declined last year, according to AC Nielsen figures, energy drinks grew by 8.1% in forecourts.
Red Bull remains the number one soft drink in the forecourt sector, and its strong performance in 2004 – up by 15% in value – was due, in part, to the continued successful rollout of its sugar-free variant, claims Britvic’s recently published Soft Drinks Category Report 2005. “Red Bull is the first stimulant brand to take a successful step into the diet arena and has created its own niche in the stimulant market,” says the report.
Red Bull kicked off its 2005 driving campaign in March, reminding drivers that the drink is proven to improve concentration, reaction speed and altertness while driving. The two-phase campaign continues Red Bull’s past success with six-sheet advertising, petrol pump nozzle advertising and supporting point-of-sale in forecourt shops nationwide.
The 2005 campaign sees Red Bull place a greater emphasis on independent forecourts, with 4,000 sites being visited by the ‘Red Bull Academy’ sales force and a ‘Driver Activator’, who will provide category advice and information on the benefits of using Red Bull while driving.
Lucozade is also performing well and should feature prominently in any forecourt soft drinks display. The three brands – Lucozade Energy, Lucozade Sport, and Lucozade Sport Hydro Active – are said to fulfil consumer demand for function and refreshment, providing a mental and physical energy boost, a sports performance boost and effective hydration respectively.
Lucozade Energy and Lucozade Sport are also being well supported by GlaxoSmithKline this year. The ‘money-can’t-buy’ on-pack Lucozade Energy promotion ‘Race in the WRC Rally Australia’ is expected to increase demand for the brand.
The promotion coincides with the announcement of the association of Lucozade Energy with the World Rally Championship (WRC) and will benefit from £1.5m-worth of support including advertising and in-store promotions this month. The brand will also benefit from high-profile exposure on the ITV WRC Rally programme.
Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool and England football star, was recently unveiled as the new face of Lucozade Sport. The TV ad portrays Gerrard becoming a combination of footballer and engine – fuelled by Lucozade Sport. The TV campaign will also be supported across other media including poster and football programme advertising.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
Bottled water also bucked the downward trend in soft drink sales and continued to grow – by 8% in the forecourt sector last year (AC Nielsen). Forecourt bottled water sales now account for 3.2% of the total UK bottled water market, worth £35.3m (38.7 million litres).
According to the 14th annual UK Bottled Water report from Zenith International, natural mineral water remains the preferred water type, adding 45 million litres in 2004 to account for 67% of the total.
“The merits of proper hydration and the benefits of bottled water to health and well-being, especially in the context of increasing concerns about obesity, continue to gain recognition among consumers,” says Zenith’s research director Gary Roethenbaugh. “Bottled water offers consumers hydration on the move. It is the most favoured zero-calorie beverage for today’s obesity-aware times.”
The two largest water brands – Volvic and Evian – are still in value growth, with a 12% and 4% increase respectively, according to the Britvic category report. “These were good performances, considering that both brands grew around 20% last year, suggesting that consumers’ desire for bottled water is continuing to increase,” says the report.
According to analysis of water sales through forecourt stores by Danone Waters – distributor of Evian and Volvic in the UK – 50% of all bottled water sales are in the 500ml formats. The on-the-go 750ml format and one-litre packs make up 21.4% of sales, while the 1.5-litre bottles are worth 23% of bottled water sales in forecourts. The rest of the market is made up of multipacks.
Philip Rae, category manager at Danone Waters, says: “Around 30% of growth in bottled water in forecourts is from multipacks. And flavoured water is 18% of water’s value but seeing a year-on-year growth of 30%.”
Volvic Touch of Fruit comes in 500ml and 1.5-litre packs in three flavours – strawberry, lemon & lime, and exotic. “The growth in flavoured water is coming from the carbonates sector,” says Rae. “Our research shows that 40% of the people who buy flavoured water don’t buy any other water so we think that people are trying to switch to healthier products. Frequent carbonates drinkers are now buying two flavoured water products for every 10 drinks they buy.”
In January this year, Danone also launched the Shape range of one-litre flavoured water drinks, and is now adding a 500ml format for impulse. The launch will benefit from a ‘heavy-weight’ marketing campaign featuring TV presenter Cat Deeley as the face of Shape. The campaign, which broke in March, includes print advertising, radio, PR and sponsorship with Heart FM. Shape waters come in three flavours – raspberry & strawberry, green apple, and pineapple.
Rae adds that impulse purchase promotions have a much higher impact on water sales than in the grocery sector. “We find that ‘two-for-a-price’ promotions are most successful because trying to get consumers to buy three bottles is more difficult in the impulse sector. Price promotions work well in multipacks but not as well in smaller formats.”
Forecourt research for Danone by PS&A – based on aggregated epos data from BP, Esso, Total, Fuelforce and Texaco – also highlights the impact of temperature on water sales. “For every degree in temperature rise above 18ºC, water sales will increase by 6%,” says Rae. “And when the temperature becomes more than 29ºC, water becomes the biggest-selling category in soft drinks.”
With this in mind, Danone Waters advises forecourt retailers to keep an eye on temperature predictions and make stacks of water in store or on the forecourt bunker, to ensure availability through warmer spells of weather.
Highland Spring – the UK’s leading producer of natural mineral water and the number three brand in forecourts – has also contributed to growth in water sales, and now has a 6% brand share.
Following successful promotions in 2004, Highland Spring is planning further dedicated activity throughout 2005. Around 300 Esso outlets will be running an exclusive ‘Txt n Win’ gondola-end promotion this month. Customers can instantly win one of 20 electric scooters and then be automatically entered into a free prize draw to win one of three Vespa scooters.
During this period special price promotions will also be on offer including a ‘two for £1.20’ offer on the 750ml sports bottle and ‘two for £1’ on the 500ml still and sparkling bottles.
Anna McDonald, trade marketing manager of Highland Spring, thinks it’s important forecourts focus on their customers needs. “Bottled water currently suffers the worst out-of-stocks, and with consumers preferring their water chilled, it now requires more dedicated chiller space,” she says.
“In a recent opinion poll 55% of consumers said they drank bottled water on the move especially when travelling by car, showing even more reason why retailers should have a good supply of chilled bottled water available at all times.”
Paul Martin, managing director of Harrogate Spa Water, meanwhile, is urging forecourt retailers to capitalise on the buoyancy in the bottled water sector with an extensive water fixture offering variety in terms of bottle size and format. At the same time he advises retailers to maximise turnover by only stocking premium water brands.
“The bottled water fixture should cater for every consumer audience with a range of different pack sizes to suit,” says Martin. “Retailers should pay close attention to the bottled water brands they stock to maximise turnover and benefit from improved margin opportunities. Bottled water is not a category where purchases are driven by price. Provenance and presentation is equally – if not more – important to consumers, which is why premium brands like Harrogate Spa continue to make an impact.
“Maximising turnover is particularly important in retail channels such as garage forecourts and c-stores where space can be tight and retailers need fixtures to work as hard as possible.”
Harrogate Spa Water has a wide packaging portfolio, including a 330ml screw top designed for younger children’s lunchboxes; 500ml screw top suited to general on-the-move consumption; 500ml sports cap, available individually or in a six-bottle multipack; 750ml sports cap targeted at sports people and gym users; and 1.5-litre screw top, available individually or in a four-bottle multipack.
According to Britvic’s category report, the juice drinks sub-category was the highest contributor to innovation last year, accounting for 18% of total new product development sales. Robinsons Fruit Spring was a key driver of sales, along with line extensions from Capri- Sun and Ribena.
“Innovation is key to the soft drinks market with manufacturers firmly committed to new product development to offer consumers more choice in an increasingly competitive market,” says the report.
“The big growth performances come from smaller new sub-categories and although this is partly due to a small base, it illustrates the experimental nature of consumers as they seek products that satisfy many varied needs.”
The pure juice category grew by 4% in forecourts and this year has also seen some big spending in the sector. Pepsico is splashing out £7.7m on its Tropicana juice brand, and last month it kicked off a £4.5m TV campaign to support the relaunch of the brand, which is growing at a rate of 11% year on year.
Del Monte continued its reign of innovation in the juice market by revealing a packaging overhaul of its Pure Blends and World Fruits ranges with a move into Combifit cartons.
And its first ever special edition juice blend, winter warmer, was recently introduced to drive category growth and incremental sales in the £2.17bn still-fruit beverage market.
The introduction of the winter warmer special edition marks the start of a rolling programme of limited-edition blends, which will be defined by seasonal changes, each lasting around six months.
Jackie Harold, product group manager for Del Monte Beverages, says: “Del Monte has carefully researched options for its special editions range. We believe these products will increase visibility and prompt purchase within the ambient juice fixture by bringing something completely new to the category.”
Last year Del Monte also added a new variant to its World Fruits range. Brazilian watermelon is the UK’s first-ever non-alcoholic, ambient water melon juice drink.
According to Del Monte, orange is still the best seller in fruit juice, but other juices such as apple and tomato should be given more shelf space and block merchandised alongside orange, to give consumers a wider choice.
The chiller is the perfect choice for both pure juice and World Fruits 330ml PET bottles for immediate on-the-go consumption, ideally being merchandised alongside other convenience and lunch products.
While colas and fruit carbonates declined last year – by 7% and 11% respectively in multiple forecourts (AC Nielsen) – Coca-Cola Enterprises anticipates an increased focus on products that fit consumers’ needs for a healthier lifestyle. “This may include diet drinks such as Diet Coke, diet flavoured carbonates, waters, juice and juice drinks, and sports and energy products,” says a spokesperson for CCE. “For example 15 years ago Diet Coke was about 30% of combined Coke and Diet Coke sales but is now worth over 40%.”
Highlighting its commitment to the growing trend for ‘healthier’ carbonates CCE launched its Z range last month. All light variants of current Coca-Cola Great Britain flavoured carbonated soft drinks – including Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper and Lilt – have been relaunched as Z, which stands for zero added sugar. And the company has also just added Fanta summer fruits to the range.
“Extensive consumer testing undertaken by Coca-Cola revealed the strong emotional appeal of using positive language and imagery of zero-added sugar over light,” says a CCE spokesperson.
As of this month, the Z range will be supported by a ‘substantial’ marketing campaign, which will be focused on raising awareness of this new category and stimulating trial. This move by Coca-Cola has been quickly followed by Britvic, which last month announced its intention to rebrand 7UP Light – the sugar-free, colour-free and caffeine-free version of 7UP – as 7UP Free.
Coca-Cola is also continuing to invest heavily in Diet Coke, but this year with the intention of making the brand more appealing to male drinkers. In January it kicked off a new TV and poster campaign featuring Tort the tortoise – the new face and voice of Diet Coke. “The plan for this campaign is to make Diet Coke increasingly relevant to men as well as women as research has shown that men are becoming more interested in a healthy lifestyle,” says a CCE spokesperson.
In February Coca-Cola also launched Diet Coke with Lime, and the brand is now being communicated on more than 4,000 poster sites throughout the country.
Meanwhile, Barr Soft Drinks – which produces Irn-Bru, the seventh best-selling soft drink in forecourts – has recently increased resources to cope more efficiently and effectively with its customers in the impulse sector.
A TV campaign kicks off this month, and Diet Irn-Bru is set for a new identity. Barr is investing £2.5m in a marketing campaign, which includes the first-ever dedicated ad for the diet variant.