New kid on the soft drinks block

Related tags Red bull Coca-cola Soft drink

What is going on in the on-trade soft drinks market?In what was formerly a three-horse race between the utterly dominant companies Coca-Cola...

What is going on in the on-trade soft drinks market?

In what was formerly a three-horse race between the utterly dominant companies Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), Britvic and Red Bull, a few young bucks now seem to have split from the chasing pack and are hot on the leaders' hooves.

US number one energy drink Monster has entered the UK market, waving a red flag at a certain Bull. Monster has heavyweight marketing support and is headed by Alan Clark, the man responsible for marketing Red Bull until March 2007.

A similar case is Suso. Here we have another big name who helped establish Red Bull, Harry Drnec, coming up with a 100 per cent juice, carbonated soft drink that he reckons will occupy a gap in the market. Categorically not an energy drink, it is going head to head with CCE's 'tiser brands - Appletiser, Peartiser and Fruitiser.

As Suso reaches "advanced discussions with a number of big pub companies", chief executive Sean Uprichard says the product has a proposition unlike any other.

According to Uprichard, most products fulfil two of three requirements for a soft drink - refreshment through carbonation, health, and being a 'cool' brand. Red Bull matches the refreshment and cool requirements, Innocent the health and cool aspects and the 100 per cent fruit juice sparkling 'tiser brands have refreshment and health going for them. Suso, he claims, uniquely fulfills all three.

"Carbonated soft drinks is a massive sector," Uprichard says, "but within that there is a big lack of choice. That's the reason CCE is really pushing Appletiser.

"However, CCE sells to pubs on the basis of a portfolio. They can't target a niche in the same way we can, out of fear that some of their brands will tread on others' toes."

This point about portfolios, though, while being in Suso's favour, is also the precise reason why CCE and Britvic have the distribution they do. The complementary nature of their range of brands makes them an attractive one-stop shop for pubs.

Perhaps this, as much as lack of trust in new brands within the pub trade, is the reason Suso has encountered difficulty securing distribution so far.

It can currently be found in only around 300 pubs nationwide, among them Geronimo Inns and Elbow Room outlets. "We're into the off-trade, but the on-trade is a tougher place," says Uprichard. "We're in advanced discussions with a number of big pub companies, but it's a frustrating, drawn-out process."

Plenty of other would-be challengers to Britvic and CCE have found this and faded back into the chasing pack.

Perhaps the difference with Suso could be the calibre of people involved. Aside from Harry Drnec, Uprichard formerly worked on CCE's energy drink Relentless. Suso's operations director is Andrew King, former CEO of PJ Smoothies. The brand's £4m marketing spend for the year comes from investment group Smedvig Capital, as well as David MacDonald, who once owned Glenmorangie malt whisky.

"We're not a risk," says Uprichard. "We are a well-financed, well-resourced company that has already proved itself in the off-trade."

Suso has covered a lot of furlongs. Can it get its nose ahead?

Related topics Soft & Hot Drinks

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