Soft drinks: Soft drinks and the new year

Related tags Soft drinks Soft drink

The phrase 'stuffed turkey' may spring to mind when trying to characterise customers in the post-Christmas period. Soft drinks could play a part in...

The phrase 'stuffed turkey' may spring to mind when trying to characterise customers in the post-Christmas period. Soft drinks could play a part in tempting them back at a time when it can be difficult to attract trade.

Customers who come to the pub in January are likely to be cash-strapped, having diverted money from their bar tabs to buy Auntie Ethel and Uncle Vic presents. They are likely to be on a health binge after the excesses of the party season. Many will even have made new year's resolutions to have a break from the booze. The majority will just stay away full stop.

Soft drinks, if done well, could be an answer. Drinking a cola or an orange juice is obviously healthier than a hard night on the booze, so will appeal on that front. With a bit of work on the pour and the look of the product, soft drinks can also be good value - something punters would doubt if they're paying two quid for a lukewarm juice in a dirty glass.

There has been a real push lately by the big players in the market towards getting soft drinks perceived not as a last resort when driving, but as genuinely attractive propositions. A new term has come into play: the 'adult' soft drink applies to brands such as the established J20 and the newer Schweppes Straightcut that have premium associations and come in large bottles. Britvic and Coca-Cola Enterprises have training programmes in place to help barstaff work towards serving soft drinks to a standard that justifies a decent price.

So now it's over to you and your staff. Can you turn your soft drinks range into an invaluable tool for pulling in trade at this health-conscious, cash-strapped time of year?

To help you, The Publican​ recruited a crack team of soft drinks experts and asked them what pubs should be doing to achieve this.

Coca-Cola Enterprises

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) is putting faith in soft drinks being a more likely category of drink to be sold alongside a meal than wine, beer or spirits. The company's belief is backed up by data group him!'s research from September this year. CCE advises pubs to push soft drinks alongside meals. And food, of course, is playing an ever greater role in the trade since the arrival of the smoking ban.

Aside from that, January success can be won in soft drinks by offering variety and a perfect serve. "To maximise sales opportunities, pubs should ensure they are stocking popular, well-known brands both in the more premium glass bottle option and in post-mix," says Andy Slee, licensed trading director at CCE.

"Currently, trends see the adult soft drink sector stealing market share from other segments as consumers seek credible alternatives to alcohol. Oasis and Schweppes Straightcut cater for these trends, as do Appletiser and Peartiser, which appeal to women."

CCE's Make it Special training programme is available, and covers the perfect serve, machine hygiene and matching soft drinks to food.


Paul Linthwaite, Britvic business unit director for on-premise, says that pubs first of all should keep a close eye on stock levels. In the pre-Christmas rush to get the stock in, it can be difficult to estimate how much needs to be carried over into the new year.

"December represents the highest peak in soft drink sales throughout the year and trends indicate that stock purchased at this time tends to carry over through January," he says. "So it's important for licensees to be planning now for the early part of 2008."

He points out that this will be the first Christmas period under the smoking ban. Health concerns may have seemed out of place in the pub in those smoky days 12 months ago. But now customers can more realistically be going to the pub to have a healthy experience - making soft drinks more important than ever before.

Paul says that the approach to serving soft drinks in an appealing way can be summarised with Britvic's mantra used in its training programmes - 'Clink, Clunk, Zing'. He explains: "Clink is about starting with a cool, clean glass; Clunk involves filling the glass with fresh, clean ice; and Zing is about adding a wedge of fruit."

Britvic's tips for driving the profitability of soft drinks in the new year include:

• Always chill your range

• Serve draught in highball glasses with ice and fruit, and offer glasses with bottled drinks

• Offer jugs of premium packaged soft drinks or soft drink cocktails ('mocktails')

• Promote larger servings

• Display premium soft drinks to raise awareness.

Red Bull

Availability and visibility are key, says Caroline Jacomb, channel marketing manager at Red Bull.

"When it comes to the chiller, simplicity is key - if people are presented with too much choice, research has shown they get confused and often end up making a snap decision instead of choosing what they really want!" she says.

Red Bull's tips for displaying soft drinks include:

• Remove items you don't sell and make sure you clearly block your key selling lines to make them as visible as possible to customers

• Breaking the back-bar up into fields of vision improves visibility and increase sales through very little effort

• Case studies show clear visibility of your key brands on the top shelf of the chiller can double sales

Do you know the power of the display? Caroline asks. 63 per cent of consumers will end up at the bar and a product given visibility in key back-bar areas can see sales uplifts of a whopping 43 per cent, according to Red Bull.

For those who don't make it to the bar, make sure Red Bull is included on your drinks menu as a solus soft drink option, or as a mixer for long drinks and cocktails, Caroline advises.


Hartridges has sought differentiation from its bigger soft drinks competitors by going all-out for healthy products - which of course would be suitable for the new year.

A serving of either its 100 per cent fruit smoothies or 275ml fruit juices constitutes one of the government's recommendation of five portions of fruit and veg a day. Hartridges also proudly claims that they contain no preservatives, additives or sugar.

Martin Hartridge, managing director, says that soft drinks have a big plus in that a quality serve can make them unique to the on-trade, something that has potential to draw people out of their homes.

Martin also suggests that small servings of soft drinks have little value. He says: "A 125ml mixer is a very small serving, under half a half-pint. Consumers have grown to expect larger servings.

"The on-trade should take advantage of its unique reputation for hospitality by offering its consumers larger servings. It's a win-win situation. The consumer gets perceived value for money and the publican gets a better cash margin."

Related topics Soft & Hot Drinks

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