The soft drinks category grew by three per cent last year, ahead of both beer and cider, according to the Soft Drinks Category report, published by Britvic Soft Drinks.
Soft drinks were the fourth-largest category in the on-trade, above cider, premium packaged spirits, champagne and sparkling wine, with sales reaching almost £1.9 billion and volumes in excess of 500 million litres.
"2002 was a year of value growth," said Britvic's director of category planning, Sue Garfitt.
"More pub-goers than ever want a soft drink and growth is coming from expanding and evolving consumer repertoires. In the last year we have seen people transferring their 'at home' soft drink preferences into the on-trade. They want better quality soft drinks with choices and pack formats that suit their changing lifestyles and preferences and are prepared to pay for them."
The report revealed that while the value of soft drinks grew by eight per cent in managed pub chains and five per cent in the leased and tenanted sector, independent pubs struggled with a decline of two per cent.
"Independents have a lot to learn from other channels," said Ms Garfitt. "They're still missing out on profits open to licensees. They need to focus on the key growth areas and begin to adopt the premium strategies such as bigger and better in order to drive soft drink consumption among their pub-goers."
Although fizzy drinks were still dominant with a 75 per cent share, still drinks out-performed carbonates in the on-trade, up eight per cent compared to two per cent. Spearheading the still area, fruit juice, fruit drinks and mineral water were the fastest growing sub-categories at 11 per cent.
As expected, mixers are in decline as consumers opt for J20, Britvic 55 and premium packaged spirits.
Britvic Soft Drinks, which recently bought Red Devil, also revealed that sales of energy drinks has levelled off and is now growing at the same rate as the overall soft drinks market.