The size of the prize

Related tags Soft drinks Coca-cola Britvic soft drinks

Pubs are changing. But we still don't know just how big the changes are going to be.Smoke is slowly drifting out of the pub door, and the smoking...

Pubs are changing. But we still don't know just how big the changes are going to be.

Smoke is slowly drifting out of the pub door, and the smoking bans due in Wales and in Northern Ireland in April, and in England in July, are already having some major effects.

Outdoor canopies and shelters are already going up at pubs up and down the country.

Many licensees are smartening up their food offers, or looking at opening a kitchen and introducing food for the first time as a means of attracting new customers when the smoking ban hits.

But how many have thought about the implications for drinks in the changing pub environment? Exclusive research from The Publican and Britvic, carried out earlier this month, suggests the prize is out there for the pubs that get the offer right.

The big winnersWe know that pubs that serve good food at the right price and in the right area are going to be some of the big winners of the ban.

More than a third of people (37 per cent) responding to our research said they will be more likely to eat in a pub once smoking is outlawed, rising to 51 per cent among non-smokers.

And what will they drink with their meal? You might be surprised to hear what one of the most popular drinks categories consumed alongside a pub meal is.

More than half (54 per cent) of all people questioned for our research said they were likely to have a soft drink with their pub meal - the same number as plumped for wine.

The figure puts soft drinks ahead of lager (at 26 per cent) and ale and stout (16 per cent), with spirits lagging even further back. Despite the recent resurgence of cider, only three per cent of people are likely to drink it with a pub meal.

The message is clear - if more people are going to be eating in pubs, more people are going to be drinking soft drinks.

"Soft drinks are already performing well in the licensed trade and this trend is likely to escalate following the smoking ban," said Andrew Richards, sales director, Britvic Soft Drinks.

"Soft drinks is already the third-largest drinks category in pubs and bars in terms of sales, and it is now growing faster than the frontrunners, beer and spirits. It won't be long until we see soft drinks replacing spirits as the second-largest category.

"The evidence is clear that the smoking ban will further increase demand for soft drinks, with

other factors such as the availability of premium packaged soft drinks and an increasing awareness of responsible drinking only boosting the opportunity further."

Among soft drinks, cola and juice drinks are way out in front as the most popular to drink with food. Almost one in three (29 per cent) said they were most likely to have a juice drink with food, while a similar number (28 per cent) said they would be looking to drink cola.

Other soft drinks came further back, with just 11 per cent saying they would be likely to drink bottled water, and eight per cent likely to opt for pure juice or lemonade.

"Cola and juice drinks are hugely popular across both food-led and general drinking occasions, which points to the fact that people still want to treat themselves when they go to a pub, despite growing awareness of health and well-being," says Andrew.

"Outside of the food-led occasion, cola and juice drinks remain important. However, more customers are likely to choose pure juice (34 per cent), lemonade (19 per cent) and bottled water (18 per cent)."In the family way

Other aspects of the research also point to the growth potential of soft drinks following the ban.

Unsurprisingly, the research suggests the size of the opportunity for pubs catering for families. There are plenty of pubs that won't want to go down the family route, but there are likely to be rewards for those that do.

Four out of 10 families said they would be more likely to bring their children to pubs following the ban. And what will they drink when they get there? More than half of parents (58 per cent) would buy their children pure juice, and 44 per cent would go for juice drinks.

A third (34 per cent) would choose squash, while a similar number (32 per cent) would go for flavoured water. A smaller proportion (25 per cent) would buy their children a cola drink.

"When it comes to getting it right for family customers, stocking a range of pure juices and juice drinks as well as flavoured and plain water is key. And for kids, stocking a brand they know and love - such as Robinsons Fruit Shoot - is particularly important in creating appeal," says Andrew.

Obviously, soft drinks, which usually offer licensees a higher margin than alcohol, are already a leading player in pubs. According to the research, 30 per cent of people had a soft drink the last time they visited a pub, equalling the figures for wine and spirits.

It wouldn't be surprising if, a year from now, that proportion is rather higher. Four out of 10 families said that they would be more likely to bring their children to the pub after the ban. Juice drinks such as J20 are among the most popular

Driving soft drinks sales

With soft drinks proving to be a growing profit opportunity, Britvic offers this advice to licensees on how to drive soft drinks sales:

1. Stock the right range of big-name brands that customers recognise and love - this is particularly important with kids' offerings where Robinsons Fruit Shoot is the firm favourite.

2. Offer premium packaged soft drinks as well as draught as most customers prefer, and are willing to pay for, a packaged soft drink.

3. Chill your premium range - half of customers will pay more for well-chilled drinks.

4. Make sure your range of premium soft drinks is visible to customers in your back-bar and chiller display to prompt consideration and purchase.

5. Use chalkboards to list your soft drinks range and create hotspots with branded stackers away from the bar to create further interest.

6. Presentation and service is key: train your staff to serve soft drinks in a clean high-ball glass with ice and fruit, and offer bottled drinks with a glass. A well-served drink will drive repeat purchase.

7. Train staff to inform customers of your soft drinks range as well as offering customers soft drinks refills at the table.

Research commissioned, in partnership, by Britvic Soft Drinks and The Publican.

The study was carried out by ICM Research among 925 consumers from Friday February 2 to Monday February 5, 2007.

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