Consumers looking for a ’winter warmer’ can forget the hot toddies and hot beverages, and instead head to the soft drinks chiller for beverages that might be served cold but can definitely warm them up. There’s limited-edition J20 Glitterberry, back for another year with its grape, cherry and winter spice flavours mixed together with edible gold glitter. Then there’s Coca-Cola Zero’s latest limited edition a Cinnamon variant and from Britvic there’s a limited edition Robinsons Fruit Cordials Crushed Apple & Cinnamon drink.

This year J20 Glitterberry was available earlier so consumers could have it for Halloween and Bonfire Night. Although available for a limited time each year, Glitterberry made a huge impact in 2017, when £9 out of every £10 spent on the flavour was incremental to the category (Kantar). In addition, Glitterberry was the third best-selling SKU in the adult soft drinks category over the festive period (Nielsen). Brand owner Britvic says this emphasises the huge opportunity for retailers to offer their customers something different for the festive season.

Russell Goldman, commercial director, foodservice and licensed at Britvic, says: "J2O is growing from strength to strength, with an average of five J2O products being sold every second, so it’s no wonder that customers keep returning, so much so that J2O has the highest loyalty levels in adult soft drinks. We are excited to be on track for another fantastic festive season especially with nearly £2 in every £5 spent within adult soft drinks on J2O in the four weeks leading up to Christmas."

Meanwhile, Britvic’s new Robinsons Fruit Cordials Crushed Apple & Cinnamon variant aims to attract more shoppers to the growing premium squash category. The original launch of Robinsons Fruit Cordials marked the brand’s entry into the premium cordials sector, one of the fastest-growing sectors in the ’flavour enhancers’ category, with sales up 25% (Nielsen). Following its category debut, Robinsons Fruit Cordials has already reached £5m in sales.

New limited-edition Cinnamon is already available in the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar range. According to Nielsen data, Zero Sugar was the fastest-growing cola brand during last Christmas, and this latest addition will help retailers tap into the rise in carbonated soft drink sales around the festive season. The limited-edition festive 1.25ltr packs feature a bespoke red and gold design to highlight the premium new flavour and ’specialness’ of the Coca-Cola brand.

Sticking with the festive theme, Coca-Cola is giving consumers the chance to win tickets to Capital’s annual Jingle Bell Ball, which will see the world’s biggest artists perform live on stage. Last year, the event sold out in record time as Capital listeners snapped up tickets in under 45 minutes so winning tickets is a big deal. The tickets are available via an on-pack promotion running across on-the-go packs of Coca-Cola original, Diet Coke and Coca-Cola zero sugar for five weeks. Consumers have to enter a unique code online to be in with the chance of winning a pair of tickets daily.

Simon Harrison, customer marketing director GB at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), says: "Last Christmas total colas grew by 5.4% (Kantar) making it a must-stock segment for retailers. We’re confident that with the early arrival of our great tasting Cinnamon variant and Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball on-pack, the festive season will get off to a flying start for our customers."

Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at CCEP, adds: "Coca-Cola original taste is synonymous with Christmas as consumers anticipate the return of the Coca-Cola Christmas truck. Throughout the year, cola is the biggest seller within soft drinks (Nielsen), and this is no different during the holiday season.

"At this time of year, when groups of friends and families get together, offering a wide choice of drinks is key, and retailers should consider the full Coca-Cola portfolio to ensure they are meeting every consumer need.

"Light cola variants including Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar are continuing to grow in popularity as people look for a low-sugar variant of their favourite soft drink, and this is no different during Christmas. In December 2017, consumers spent an additional £12.3m on soft drinks and more than 30% of this was on light colas (Nielsen)."

Burgess says the company’s smaller, more premium packs of Coca-Cola tie into the feeling of ’specialness’ associated with the brand and its heritage. "Our 250ml glass Icon bottles have always brought a sense of occasion to the Coca-Cola brand. The four pack in a carry case was launched in the lead up to last Christmas and delivered a new, special proposition and experience for shoppers."

Burgess believes dedicated Christmas displays are a great way to drive sales and spread festive cheer in the run-up to Christmas. "From now onwards, retailers should consider displaying future consumption soft drinks like 2ltr PET and multipack formats close to the entrance of the store to encourage impulse buys as people begin to stock up for their celebrations.

"Creating eye-catching Christmas displays that showcase festive favourites can really add some in-store theatre that will build excitement in the lead up to the big day.

"At this time, soft drinks could be displayed alongside other products that are popular at Christmas, such as sharing snacks. Retailers could offer discounts that are applied when bought together to boost sales.

"Forecourts should consider mixers to go alongside their alcohol ranges, so people can stock up on everything they need for their night in, in one go. Mixers are growing in popularity, and can help boost sales of spirits. This is partly due to the popularity of cocktails, as people are becoming more adventurous with home-made cocktails."

Burgess says adult soft drinks is also a growing sector with products like Appletiser popular whether served on their own, or as an ingredient for cocktail or mocktail making. Indeed the premium adult soft drink was the fastest growing CCEP brand in December 2017 (Nielsen).

Premium promise

Retailers looking for a premium soft drink to appeal to young adults should consider Gunna, a new craft soft drink which boasts ’Less Sugar, More Character’ and is targeted at millennials who are looking for more character and personality from brands.

The Gunna team undertook extensive taste testing and quantitative research with thousands of consumers in their 20s and 30s, and found that these consumers thought the mainstream carbonates category lacked personality and excitement, particularly when compared to categories like craft beers and healthy snacking.

Gunna CEO and founder, Melvin Jay, says the result of these tests, ie Gunna, is a unique flavour profile that combines sweet, sour, bitter and spicy notes, creating a drink with true character, that millennials find more intriguing and complex than traditional soft drinks.

The launch has been timed perfectly to capitalise on the lower sugar trend as well as the trend for millennials to drink less alcohol.

There are currently four flavours in the range: Original (sparkling water, natural gingers and aromatic flavours that was originally invented by the British Navy as a remedy for seasickness); Steelworks (sparkling water, natural gingers and cola tonic, based on a drink enjoyed by Cape Town’s thirsty steelworkers); Pink Punk (a mix of sparkling water, natural raspberry and lemon, inspired by the Shirley Temple cocktail, popular in Asia); and Muscovite (sparkling water with natural lemon and mint, which is a cloudy lemonade based on the lemonade famous in Moscow).

All four flavours are available in cans and glass bottles, rrp 99p and £1.49 respectively.

Jay says that from a general perspective, the opportunities for craft soft drinks are huge: "The category is growing by 56% year-on-year as millennials are looking for brands with personality and great flavour. We know they’re getting tired of the big-name players who generally lack differentiation.

"Craft soft drinks generate three times more cash margin than mainstream carbonates as people are prepared to pay slightly more for craft drinks.

"Taste is still the key driver of choice for soft drinks and our range beats mainstream rivals in taste tests. We know health is also important to consumers and Gunna has less than 5% sugar, and is made with ingredients such as juice and natural fruit extracts, with no artificial colours or flavours. Our packaging also gives stand-out on shelf and research we have undertaken with millennials confirms the design appeals strongly to them."

Another new range likely to strike a chord with younger drinkers is Rubicon Street Drinks, which features four flavours inspired by authentic street drinks from some of the world’s hottest places.

Sharbat features the traditional Turkish flavour combination of pomegranate and rose, while Mexico is the source of inspiration for Agua Fresca, which includes watermelon, lime and mint flavouring. Indian inspired Nimbu Pani includes lemon, cumin and mint flavours, while African influences are found in Bissap, featuring hibiscus and ginger flavouring. Each drink comes in an eye-catching 330ml can.

"Street food has captured the imagination of UK consumers in recent years and now Rubicon Street Drinks will enable consumers to discover a world of exciting, new soft drinks, using authentic flavours from the world’s hottest streets," says Barr Soft Drinks marketing director, Adrian Troy.

In research, the range performed well with over 70% of shoppers expressing an intent to buy, and 95% saying that they thought the range was ’modern, different and eye catching’.

Driving growth

Paul Hargreaves, chief executive at fine food distributor Cotswold Fayre, believes that flavour innovation and natural ingredients will drive soft drinks category growth but that consumers will continue to seek out taste-led, premium drinks.

"Much has already been written about the sugar tax seeking to discourage over-indulgence of sugary fizzy drinks, which of course is a good thing, but soft drinks and certainly speciality soft drinks is very much a grown-up category with adults making informed purchase choices. We are not seeing an increase in demand for diet drinks, with either chemical or natural sweeteners, but are seeing an increased demand for craft sodas such as Soda Folk, which do contain natural sugars such as pure cane sugar or maple syrup. However, the sugar content is, and I believe will continue to be, overshadowed by the fact that they simply taste amazing."

Hargreaves says it is interesting to see the introduction of canned drinks within the speciality sector as 10 years ago this was totally unheard of. "Cans were perceived as being far less premium than bottles, and to some degree this is still true. But there is now much more acceptance of cans and cartons being used as an alternative to plastic as consumers become increasingly aware of, and actively seek out more sustainable packaging options. There are many examples of canned drinks entering the category over the last few years, including Belvoir, Fentimans, Soda Folk, Dalston’s and Nix & Kix."

He says best sellers over the summer included the Vivalicious range of fruit drinks and smoothies, which are packed full of superfoods to boost energy and keep everyone focused. Flavours include Shape Up Superfood Juice (apple, mango, orange, gooseberry, grapefruit, cranberry and turmeric) and Chill Out Superfood Juice (apple, blueberry, pomegranate, dragon fruit, raspberry and lemon).

Hargreaves’ tips for this Christmas include the Franklin & Sons Epicurean Collection of tonic water. This is an award-winning range of tonics, made with only natural flavours, extracts and colours, with no preservatives or sweeteners. Flavours include Rosemary & Olive, Pink Grapefruit & Bergamot, Elderflower & Cucumber and Rhubarb & Hibiscus. Then there’s Mr Fitzpatrick’s No Added Sugar Cordial which also has no artificial colours or flavours. There are five variants: Dandelion & Burdock, Cranberry & Pomegranate, English Elderflower & Bramley Apple, Sour Cherry, Red Grape & Hibiscus and Gooseberry & Elderflower.


An all-year-round seller in forecourts is, of course, Red Bull. In the last five years, Red Bull has experienced an 8.6% value increase, with sales at Christmas standing at £13.3m in 2017 (+9.9% IRI data).

Mark Bell, strategy and planning manager at Red Bull UK, says: "Delivering more £ROS to the functional category than any other brand, Red Bull’s 473ml can was the biggest contributing SKU to the success of Red Bull over the Christmas period last year. Red Bull consumers have the highest spend per buyer over the festive period versus other sports and energy ranges, therefore Red Bull suggests convenience retailers stock a range of Original and Sugarfree cans to meet demand."

Scott Meredith, UK sales director at Lucozade Ribena Suntory, says that to maximise sales all year round, forecourt retailers should follow simple category advice to focus on layout, review their range regularly and stock up frequently.

"SKUs should be brand-blocked with a minimum of two facings per flavour, and more for a best seller like Lucozade. Availability is essential, he says, "with each shopper spending up to £232 a year on soft drinks (HIM data), every person who walks through the door is a profit opportunity. Top sellers should be placed at eye level to help find favourites quickly. The range should be regularly reviewed on sales performance and shopper feedback to make sure the best selection of drinks is offered."

Smoothies that maintain their natural nutrients

Savsé smoothies feature eight different fruit and vegetables in each recipe, ingredients such as kale, spinach, broccoli and beetroot, to help consumers increase their intake. That’s great but Paul Gurnell, CEO of Savsé, says what’s most important is the state in which these ingredients reach your body. "Our use of cold press and high-pressure processing (HPP) enables us to maintain the natural nutrients in the ingredients, locking it in and allowing them to reach consumers as if they had made the products fresh themselves at home. Unlike pasteurised equivalents (which make up most of the market), around 40% degradation of the nutrient content occurs due to the heat passing through the fruit and veg, dramatically cutting the nutritional benefit and compromising the taste profile."
Gurnell says Savsé launched the world’s first range of cold-pressed protein smoothies, giving consumers a natural protein boost at levels accessible to all, not just those interested in building muscle.
"Our protein smoothies contain 10g of protein versus traditional protein products which often contain as much as 25-30g," he explains.
The company’s latest protein smoothie product is Protein Rise, which combines high quality whey, and protein rich quinoa with a selection of cold-pressed fruits. It joins the existing Protein Punch and Protein Smash, all of which come in 250ml bottles, in cases of six. Rrp is £2.99 and price-marked packs are available

Retailer view Nigel Walker Eurospar Hardford Link, Newtownards, Co Down:

"Mineral sales are strong across both impulse and take-home categories.
"We have 6.25m of impulse drinks located in the first half of our 6,000sq ft store alongside the food-to-go and chilled sections. Having 5m of impulse blocked together in a run certainly has impact visually for our customers.
"We also have additional drinks located in our sandwich section and a full bay of healthier drinks from protein shakes to natural fruit blends. In our dairy cabinet we have a range of milkshakes, juices and protein milks, and in our health and wellbeing section we have energy drinks, with more placed within our queue system, after the confectionery, to cater for any last-minute impulse purchases.
"Our large mineral section also caters for take-home purchases and we always have an off-shelf stack of 12-pack water that offers value to the consumer. Take-home drinks feature heavily on three or four of our 10 promotional ends each period.
"I follow planograms that are provided by our support team which change in line with market trends and also rate of sale."

Chilled coffee delivering growth

Forecourts that are not stocking Starbucks chilled coffee are missing out. That’s the message from Arla Foods, which manufactures, distributes and markets Starbucks premium milk-based ready-to-drink coffee beverages for the European market.
According to Nielsen data, the chilled coffee category is growing 17.5% in value terms with Starbucks the number-one chilled coffee offer. Indeed the Starbucks range delivered the highest- value growth into the category over the 52 weeks to June 17, 2018, with Chilled Classics Skinny Latte the fastest- growing SKU growing at 67% year-on-year and Doubleshot Original, the second-fastest growing at 21% year-on-year.
Michael Lomas, commercial marketing manager at Arla Foods says: "Choice and variety remain important to consumers and Starbucks is currently the only chilled coffee brand to offer a broad choice with its Chilled Classics, Doubleshot and bottled Frappuccino range. This year Starbucks also launched Signature Chocolate, inspired by the existing coffee house customer favourite, which was the first non-coffee dairy drink in the range."
The Starbucks ready-to-drink range is closely linked to the coffee house’s favourites. The Starbucks Chilled Classics, including Skinny Latte, Cappuccino and Signature Chocolate, are perfect for busy consumers who are seeking a great-tasting beverage on the go. Starbucks Frappuccino is great for those looking for a sweeter treat. And Starbucks Doubleshot, which is now available in three SKUs appeals to consumers seeking a coffee boost.

Shakes that make you money

F’real provides retailers with a customer- operated machine that creates extra thick milkshakes made with ice cream in a quick grab-and-go format.
"The market for f’real is literally anyone who enters a forecourt," explains Emma Wood, head of f’real.
"Whether it is a commuter looking for a refreshing snack, or a family looking for a fun addition to their journey, f’real is the perfect complement to hot drink machines."
The shakes come in four flavours (vanilla, chocolate, strawbery and cookies ’n cream) with strawberry proving to be a particularly popular choice with children, while cookies ’n cream tends to be the flavour to tempt parents and commuters.
Each shake is created with real ice-cream, fresh ingredients such as real strawberries, vanilla pods and Belgian chocolate and no artificial colours or flavours.
Personalisation is key in the f’real experience so consumers can choose their thickness according to their personal preference.
From regular thickness to more or less thick, f’real users can decide just how thick their thick shake is at the touch of a button via the easy-to-use self-service machine.
Wood says retailers can expect a turnaround of as little as 48 hours for a f’real milkshake machine to be installed, depending on the plumbing capability of the location.
Outlets simply need electricity and the ability to connect the machine to a water supply.
As the machine self-sanitises, it requires very little staff involvement, apart from a wipe down of the fascia and replenishment of the stock within.

Small drinks with a big kick

BP Connect forecourts have recently started stocking the Zinger range, from Suffolk drinks manufacturer James White Drinks, to provide motorists with a natural, caffeine-free pick-me-up for when they’re on the road.
The 7cl Zinger shots, made from 100% natural ingredients, have already proven popular in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Holland and Barrett stores.
BP will stock four Zinger flavours: Ginger; Xtra Ginger with 40% crushed ginger juice, apple juice and chili; Lime and Chili; and Turmeric Juice. Rrp is £1.49 per 7cl shot.
Lawrence Mallinson, founder of James White Drinks, says: "We’re delighted that BP Connect have chosen to stock the Zinger range the little shots with the big kick. We hope they provide a natural, refreshing alternative to coffee for motorists who need a pick-me-up during a long drive, without the negative side effects of caffeine."

Yazoo is still number one

While there has been growth in sales of dairy alternatives, the dairy drinks sector is still worth over £500m and is growing 6% year-on-year according to IRI data. Alongside this, the £306.7m flavoured milk category continues to be the largest dairy drinks segment with 53% market share and sales up 6.4% year-on-year.
This makes dairy drinks a very relevant category for forecourts according to Wayne Thompson, customer marketing manager for Yazoo. "Within flavoured milk, Yazoo is the number one flavoured milk drink and has been driving growth in the category, with sales up 8.7% year-on-year," he explains.
"One of the key ways Yazoo has driven growth in the category is creating new news with the launch of its Limited Edition Choc Mint milk drink. Since launch five months ago, it’s now worth £1m and is within the top-five selling milk drinks in convenience, making this a must-stock in the chiller."
Thompson’s main piece of advice to forecourts is to ensure they have the best-selling flavours and sizes. "We recommend stocking the core flavours as 87% of flavoured milk volume comes from chocolate (including chocolate variants), strawberry, banana and vanilla."
In addition, by siting 400ml on-the-go packs of flavoured milk at the front of the store with the food to go, retailers can see incredible uplifts in sales.
After a simple shelf re-order and the use of branded pos, sales within the dairy category at award-winning retailer David Charman’s Spar store in West Malling, Kent increased by over 48% and sales of Yazoo more than doubled.