Pubs are failing to make the most of the unprecedented popularity of soft drinks, according to new research.
Coca-Cola Enterprises' (CCE) annual Soft Drinks Bulletin reports that UK sales returned to growth in 1999 after three disappointing years.
It estimates that volumes reached nearly 10 billion litres in 1999, the highest ever figure and 5.5 per cent up on 1998.
But CCE's consumer research reveals that customers still regard the quality of soft drinks served in pubs as poor.
"Not only are they usually unaware of the range of soft drinks available, but they also view small serving sizes as poor value for money," said CCE licensed channel director Dave Woodward.
He claimed that publicans could increase sales by as much as 32 per cent by addressing the issues of range, bigger measures and communicating with the consumer.
In particular, CCE believes that licensees are missing the opportunity to sell soft drinks with food. Less than a third of pub meals are served with a soft drink, while in fast food chains the figure is almost 60 per cent.
Greene King food pub chain Hungry Horse last week announced its offer of unlimited free refills to customers who pay £1.25 for the first glass of Coke or Diet Coke.
UK Pepsi distributor Britvic also advises licensees to improve quality and value for money.
Pubs' soft drink prices were reported to the Department of Trade and Industry last year, which opted to take no action after listening to arguments about licensees' overheads.
Key facts in the CCE report included:
- total soft drink volumes through pubs were up by three per cent in the year to September 1999 - less than the overall market growth but, along with spirits, one of only two on-trade drinks sectors to show an increase
- one in five of all drinks consumed in pubs are soft drinks
- fruit juices are leading the expansion followed by colas
- mixers and lemonade are the only two sectors still in decline.