The role of soft drinks in pubs has changed dramatically in recent years
Customers spend £1.8billion a year on soft drinks in pubs. That makes it the third biggest drinks category, after beers and spirits, outselling cider and wine.
Predictably, a small number of brands account for the majority of sales. Pepsi, Coca Cola, R Whites, and Schweppes Lemonade together made up almost 50 per cent of sales during 2000.
Added to this dominance by the big brands is the fact that the traditional view of soft drinks in the pub trade has been that they effectively sell themselves, either as a default purchase for a customer who is driving, or as a mixer with a spirit. Even Red Bull, the fastest growing soft drinks brand for the past three years, seems to fit into this latter category, since it is mainly sold as an accompaniment to vodka.
However, just as the alcoholic drinks market has become more complex, with repertoire drinkers switching between a range of brands rather than sticking to a "usual", suppliers argue that the role of soft drinks has changed dramatically over the last few years. In that context, spending a little time working on the way you market soft drinks to customers, as well as the range of brands stocked, can make a big difference to sales.
Britvic Soft Drinks, the largest supplier to the on-trade, has recently completed a research initiative aimed at understanding the needs of pub customers better. Britvic's business unit director for on-trade, Jim Reade, said: "We are seeing an expansion of lifestyle choices and there is a corresponding desire by all customers - young and old - to choose different sorts of soft drinks depending on their mood.
"The success of brands such as Red Bull and J20 in the pub reflects the ability of soft drinks to fulfil drinkers' needs - as customers realise the choice available the 'usual', or default cola purchase, will become a thing of the past."
The company has identified four key areas which it says pubs should focus on to develop soft drinks sales:
- Stock a wide choice of premium adult soft drinks served chilled from the fridge
- Promote new soft drinks and special offers, especially at weekends when female consumption of soft drinks increases dramatically
- Promote diet drinks, price points and special offers at tables as many females will not go to the bar
- Always serve soft drinks in a clean glass with ice and lemon.
- Make sure you stock a credible range of kids' brands and serve draught soft drinks in branded paper cups
- Put PoS at kids' eye-level in the family areas
- Offer kids' meal deals and "kids drink free" offers to encourage parents into your pub
- Promote meals and soft drinks during school holidays when families are more likely to visit
- Keep kids occupied so parents are happy to stay longer and spend more.
- Customers are less likely to want alcohol with their meals at lunchtimes so make sure you stock a good choice of soft drinks that go with food
- Promote larger servings of soft drinks with larger meals
- Offer a small range of meal deals for set prices including a soft drink, especially for kids
- Use chalkboards to communicate promotions
- Encourage staff to ask your customers if they would like a drink when they are ordering food.
Variety and value
- Put a range of premium soft drinks on display at the back bar area to raise awareness
- Ensure your premium range of packaged soft drinks are served chilled
- Use areas other than point of purchase for secondary displays.
- Offer "off-peak" pricing to encourage customers to trade up to larger sizes at quieter periods
- Offer buckets of premium packaged drinks for a set price - especially to groups of females.