Have you gone soft?

Related tags Soft drinks Coca-cola

A good range of soft drinks is important to meet the customer's needs at every possible occasion.The soft drinks category is one of the fastest...

A good range of soft drinks is important to meet the customer's needs at every possible occasion.

The soft drinks category is one of the fastest growing and innovative consumer product sectors.

Year-by-year there is a high number of new product launches as well as continued strong growth of established brands. However, this variety and activity is, for the most part, not reflected in the pub sector.

A common view expressed by consumers is that they would like to see a much greater range and variety of soft drinks available in pubs. (RSL 1997)

Consumers are used to a dynamic and wide ranging soft drinks offer in other market sectors establishments, and are disappointed by the often limited range and apparent low level of attention paid to the soft drinks category in pubs.

Today's customers have much higher expectations of the range and quality of products pubs should offer. In order to meet those expectations, the on-trade has to ensure that soft drinks are clearly a core part of their total offer rather than being seen as an "add-on".

That means pubs need to ensure that they stock a range that meets consumer needs for all occasions, across all the key soft drinks sectors. The main soft drink sectors are: colas, flavours, mixers, energy, adult. Colas represent 45 per cent of on-premise soft drinks, lemonade 20 per cent, flavours, 11 per cent, juices, 10 per cent, waters, six per cent, mixers, five per cent, and squash, three per cent. Cola is still far and away the biggest selling soft drinks product segment in the licensed trade and continues to lead growth. (AC Nielsen 52 w/e Nov/Dec 2001 vol.)

Range within the sector

Pubs need to plan their soft drinks range carefully. The balancing act is to ensure that the leading brands and products are readily available and served cold, while at the same time paying attention to those products, which are growing in popularity or have scope for growth.


Coca-Cola and diet Coke are now the leading soft drinks brands in both the cola sector and of the non-alcoholic beverage sold in pubs market as a whole. This was confirmed by The Publican's Brands Report 2002, published on March 25. Using figures supplied by AC Nielsen, the report shows that Coca-Cola is the number one soft drinks brand in pubs.


Flavoured carbonates account for 11 per cent of the on-trade soft drink volume, compared to 18 per cent in the take home channel, where leading brands such as Fanta and Sprite are driving the growth (AC Nielsen Take Home Nov/Dec 2002). Rob Sutton of Coca-Cola Enterprises Limited (CCE) commented: "We see the flavoured carbonates sector as a huge opportunity for growth and are planning to launch some major initiatives in the licensed trade later this year."


Recent research has revealed a shift in consumer tastes from spirit mixing to long spirit drinks.

An example of spirit mixing is a gin and tonic, where the mixer is used as a softener that extends and mellows the taste of alcohol. Long drinks use the mixer as a carrier to cover the taste of alcohol, such as in a Sea Breeze where vodka is masked with the distinct flavour of cranberry juice. Schweppes will soon be announcing range developments that reflect this switch in consumer preference.

In the meantime, Schweppes mixers remain the number one mixers brand in the pub sector, rated as the 10th best selling soft drink brand in The Publican Brands Report 2002.


This sector has shown the strongest percentage growth of the last few years. Total sales of energy drinks have more than doubled in volume and value since 1999, according to AC Neilsen market analysis.

However, the same research shows that 57 per cent of on premise outlets still do not stock any energy drinks. (Zenith International 2002 Retailer Briefing on UK Energy and Sports Drinks).

Burn was launched by CCE in autumn 2001 and a series of on-trade promotions are planned to support this innovative energy drink brand.


The adult sector includes juices and waters. This sector represents only 16 per cent of on-trade volumes. This is an area of opportunity for pubs, as consumers are increasingly buying mineral waters, fruit juice and juice drinks for consumption at home. In fact, this segment represents one-third of all soft drinks volume in the take home channel. Publicans need to consider this opportunity and ensure that a range of adult soft drinks is available straight from the fridge.

The "Coca-Cola" test​ How do you serve Coca-Cola? Different serving styles depend on the type of outlet you operate and your customer's expectations:

  • the 330ml "Contour" glass bottle will drive sales in outlets where the perception of quality is important
  • the 16oz Coca-Cola branded glass appeals to customers where value for money is a strong driver of sales
  • the 180ml "Profile" glass bottle is ideal for use as a mixer.

Key messages

  • offer your customers a choice of drinks across all of the soft drink sectors
  • stock the correct Coca-Cola pack for your outlet type
  • flavoured carbonates are a development opportunity for pubs and CCE are planning to launch some major initiatives in this area in 2002

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