A soft spot

Related tags Soft drinks Coca-cola Britvic soft drinks

Last summer had a dramatic impact on sales of soft drinks in the UK. But Britvic Soft Drinks' Category Report 2004 says there's more to it than the...

Last summer had a dramatic impact on sales of soft drinks in the UK. But Britvic Soft Drinks' Category Report 2004 says there's more to it than the weather.​There is nothing like a drop of sunshine, as every publican must know, for inspiring that feeling of well-being that can only come from a full till. Sadly, those generous seasons must come to an end - but in certain cases they leave a permanent mark. The sudden flood of consumer activity changes the landscape forever. This is the step-jump effect so coveted by marketing folk. Last summer, the hottest on record, had a dramatic impact on sales of soft drinks in the UK. The value of the market was 11 per cent up in the 12 months to November 2003 compared to an average 4.5 per cent for previous years in what was already a fairly buoyant market.But that's not all. Britvic Soft Drinks, which a couple of weeks ago published its annual review of the sector, the Category Report 2004, believes that about half the growth came from factors other than the weather.Director of category planning Sue Garfitt in particular points to the "huge growth in innovation" in the market. If people are drinking more soft drinks to slake their thirst, as they were last summer, they are also experiencing new kinds of drinks and new kinds of packaging. As long as the soft drinks companies get their consumer insight right and offer people new products they are going to like they will carry on drinking them. A part of the temporary increase in sales caused by the weather will be held by the market in following years.Of course, the proof of this will only come with next year's figures and a more typical British summer. But Sue, for one, is convinced that the category has emerged from 2003 in a stronger state.That applies as much to the on-trade as it does to the much larger soft drinks market in the off. In fact, last year value growth matched that in the off-trade for the first time as sales crashed through the £2bn barrier.According to Jim Reade, who runs the on-trade side of the business at Britvic, as pubs provide a wider range of occasions on which customers might go soft - chiefly around food - so the choice of products they are offered is broadening.The best example of this is J2O, Britvic's still juice-based drink. After a nervous start, J2O last year grew 118 per cent, driving a doubling of volume in the juice drinks sector.But the soft drinks offering in pubs still looks rather cramped. Cola in the on-trade outperformed the total market. Good news for cola but does it not also suggest that it's a default choice, the safe drink people turn to for the want of anything more exciting?What the soft drinks giants have discovered, however, is that the pub-goer is a conservative type when it comes to trying something new. But, as Sue Garfitt puts it, "standing still is not an option" and we can expect innovation to keep driving the market forwards - whatever the weather.Highlights of 2003

  • On-trade sales up 11 per cent to top £2bn for the first time
  • Volume increase was seven per cent
  • A record £116m was spent on advertising
  • Still drinks overtook fizzy in the total marketplace
  • £162m generated by innovation
  • Vanilla Coke was the biggest launch of 2003

Pepsi deal peps Britvic for the future​A good year for soft drinks was an even better one for Britvic. Increasing sales by 20 per cent, the company took over from Coca-Cola Enterprises the position of the on-trade's leading supplier.This was partly thanks to distribution gains, reflected in a 22 per cent increase for Pepsi Cola, and also as a result of its success with J20.More good news for Britvic was that its deal with Pepsi, which had three years to run, was extended to 15 years.As a result, Britvic managing director Paul Moody announced a doubling of marketing spend on the Pepsi brands for the coming year. "Now we can plan how we invest in the business," he said.Britvic will also be tapping the stream of new product development coming out of the States and promises plenty of new launches over the next two to five years.The company, which is currently owned by a consortium that includes Allied Domecq, Whitbread and Pepsi, is now talking openly of floating on the stock exchange next year.Sub-category performance in the on-trade

value £m

% change







Fruit juice









Juice drinks



Energy drinks



Flavoured carbonates



Bottled water






Source: AC Nielsen/Britvic

Related topics Soft & Hot Drinks

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