Britvic: making soft drinks sparkle

By Robyn Lewis

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Soft drinks Soft drink Public house Coca-cola

Britvic: on-trade investment
Britvic: on-trade investment
Robyn Lewis reports on Britvic's £11m promotional spend to capture the attention of trade and consumers alike.

Bringing excitement to the soft drinks category might seem like a hard task, but Britvic's Paul Linthwaite believes the company's £11m promotional spend should capture the attention of trade and consumers alike. Robyn Lewis reports

Let's face it, soft drinks just aren't sexy. They've none of the mystique that surrounds the world of wine and its talk of terroir and ancient vines, none of the weight of history and tradition that lies in a pint of ale and nothing of the endless possibilities of food. Seriously, which of us got into the trade because of a passion for lemonade?

This is the problem facing Paul Linthwaite, on-trade business unit director for one of the category's biggest players, Britvic.

He knows there's an opportunity for licensees to boost their (and Britvic's) profits through driving soft-drinks sales; he knows consumer trends (such as the increasing number of female customers, a greater family focus and food-friendly pubs) all dovetail perfectly with his mission to grow the soft-drinks category; he knows people are looking to cut down on their alcohol consumption — but he also knows that you are much more interested in so many other elements of running a pub than serving an orange juice. So what to do?

"Clearly, the vast majority of licensees take great pride in the craft and connoisseurship of other categories, but because soft drinks doesn't have those same stories to tell, what we need to do is make the category more interesting," Linthwaite admits.

To this end Britvic last week announced an £11m spend on soft-drinks in the on-trade this year. As part of this it has developed a new training programme, ExSellence (see box), and is set to launch a raft of new activities over the next 12 months.

The first of these will be new glassware for Pepsi, the first in two years. The move is part of a global redesign for the brand and so it will include the new Pepsi Smile logo, but it is also a different shape, stackable for the first time, as well as a bit sleeker and more ergonomic, says Linthwaite.

"We know licensees really appreciate glassware and having a great glass really adds to an on-trade ex-perience for consumers, so we'll be distributing 1.1 million of them through pubs and bars from the end of this month, a significant investment in itself.

"However, we are going further than this and will be also rolling out new glasses for J2O, about another million from the end of March."

The third big piece of activity is also for the J2O brand, this time a promotion designed to drive footfall into venues and also dwell time when punters are there.

"The J2O Pub Quiz initiative hasn't been designed for your pub-quiz anorak — it's a kit that will help licensees, who have perhaps never run a quiz before or who want to run one with a difference, put on an event that everyone will enjoy," he explains.

"It's metter to bix things up"

Based on the "It's metter to bix things up" advertising campaign, the quirky quiz features questions with a twist, such as cryptic clues, mixed-up faces and word searches. The aim, says Linthwaite, is to bring back the more social aspect of pubs, "pubs as they should be, somewhere to go and meet people and socialise".

Some 6,000 kits will be distributed to freetrade outlets from next month, with a further 3,000 to managed outlets following that. Consumer advertising will also support the promotion and a website has been set up,, to help licensees promote their own events locally with PoS, posters and even advice on how to set up a Facebook page.

Making the pub a fun place to be, albeit for a younger generation this time, is also part of the inspiration behind a new promotion for kid's brand Fruit Shoot. Following on from last year's activity packs, Linthwaite reveals a new magazine for four to 11-year-olds, which will be distributed across the on-trade this year.

"We'll be publishing four times a year and each issue will include a variety of puzzles, activities and games for children who are in the pub with their families. Our research shows that families spend 60% more than other groups of people who visit pubs (compared to a group of single men, for example) and that if fami-lies stay for an extra hour, spend increases by 59%.

We all know that once the kids get bored the whole group will leave en masse, so initiatives like this one will really help those licensees wanting to boost their family trade," he says. The first magazines will be reaching licensees in the next few weeks.

As the year progress-es the company will also focus on the opportunity of long mixed spirit drinks, with initiatives aimed at getting licensees and consumers to be more adventurous.

"There's a seemingly endless variety of drinks you can make by combining the spirits and mixers available, but in reality the biggest mixers are still tonic and energy drinks," Linthwaite says. "Most consumers are open to suggestion, but they need to be reassured that it is a credible choice and is going to look good."

New drinks menus and PoS, therefore, are now being developed and will be ready at the end of May, in time to make the most of the spring and summer months. Training in the perfect serve is also a part of the new training programme, not just because of the importance of giving consumers a perfect drink each time (though Linthwaite cannot stress the importance of this enough), but also because it goes back to the original point of the category needing some more excitement.

"Using decent glassware, the right amount of ice, a fruit garnish and a complementary spirit and mixer adds some craftsmanship and pride to the category. It gives it a bit more of a story," he says.

The classic way to add some drama to a category is, of course, through the introduction of new products and Linthwaite is promising much on this front as well.

What went wrong with Lime Grove

The company is already trialling Pepsi flavoured shots in a managed chain, which is said to be going well, and it has not been put off product development by its Lime Grove failure, launched in April 2008 and pulled last autumn.

"It's true we didn't get it right with Lime Grove," Linthwaite admits. "We identified a gap in the market for a female-oriented, premium sparkling drink, but in the end the feeling is that the packaging didn't quite hit the mark.

It does happen, you try your best to get all the elements right, but sometimes, in spite of all the work, it just isn't quite there."

While details of any planned new launches are being kept under wraps for now, Linthwaite says the premium female market is still being explored, as well as new lighter flavours and formulations to make soft drinks a bit more "sessionable".

There is also a drive to develop soft drinks that can be matched with foods, which Linthwaite hints might be a big focus for the company later this year or early next year.

In the end, we'll have to wait and see if £11m worth of activity will be enough to make lemonade interesting, but Linthwaite certainly seems up for the challenge.

Training for the future

The new ExSellence training is a modular programme based around the key principles that drive soft-drinks sales.

The modules include:

Unavoidable visibility​ — prompting purchase through display and merchandising

Maximise the spend​ — driving customers to spend more or buy more often every visit

Exploiting occasions​ — linking to specific occasions when licensees can sell more soft drinks

Compellingly served​ — deliver a serve experience to add value and excitement to the product offer

Engaging experience​ — making soft drinks a more enjoyable experience

It can either be delivered by Britvic experts or slotted into existing pub company schemes. Currently it is available to Britvic's managed retail customers, with a rollout to the rest of the trade planned over the next year.

£11m​ — Britvic's planned soft drinks spend in the on-trade this year


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