Preparing for summer: Selecting your pubs' drinks offer

By Sonya Hook

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Drinks, Alcoholic beverage, First drinks

Licensees should be preparing their pubs' offer for warmer weather
Licensees should be preparing their pubs' offer for warmer weather
It’s hard to imagine sunshine after the gloom and cold of the past few months, but warmer weather is on its way. And while we don’t have the Olympics and international football tournaments to look forward to this summer, there’s still plenty that publicans can do with their drink offer to draw in customers and drive up profits.

Julie Ingham, marketing director at Continental Wine & Food (CWF), says that summer 2013 offers licensees many opportunities to capture consumer spend.

“With numerous high-profile events taking place from the Coronation Festival to the arrival of a Royal baby, bar owners need to plan well in advance to make the very most of these opportunities in terms of promotional activity,” she says.

With the unpredictable nature of British weather, the solution, it seems, is to offer a range that is flexible, particularly drinks that can be used as either mixers or a base for cocktails, alongside suitable food options.

Cocktails and mixers
The most profitable drinks segment for operators is spirits with mixers, says Andrew Leat, on-trade category manager, Diageo GB, and there is a higher average spend on these drinks during the warmer summer months.

“Diageo’s four leading brands, Smirnoff Vodka, Gordon’s Gin, Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum and Pimm’s, served in a pitcher, combined with mixers and the right amount of ice, are an effective way to drive overall spend per head,” he says.

Recent launches from Diageo include Gordon’s Crisp Cucumber, which is original Gordon’s Gin blended with cucumber flavouring and designed to be mixed with tonic.

Others are also expecting the classic G&T to be popular this summer. Nick Williamson, marketing controller at First Drinks, suggests that pubs use Hendrick’s gin to offer a fresh twist on an old classic.

Some other simple, but effective, summer serve suggestions from First Drinks include the Green Mark Raspberry Mule (Green Mark vodka, sugar syrup, ginger ale and raspberries), and the Al Fresco (Disaronno, lime, elderflower cordial and soda).

Meanwhile, when it comes to summer cocktails, Maxxium suggests that pubs create a specific menu of simple mixed drinks, using seasonal fruits and flavours. “Serving cocktails and quality mixed drinks can help to broaden a bar’s drinks offering and customer base,” says on-trade sales director Jim Grierson.

Meanwhile, he also mentions the latest drinks innovation from The Famous Grouse, the Ginger Grouse, which is designed to appeal to a younger consumer group.

And for publicans who want to offer something a little different, cocktail innovator Funkin has announced the launch of its latest mixer variant, Funkin Brazilian​. The product combines mango, passion fruit and orange juice, together with Brazilian guarana seeds, which contain twice the caffeine of coffee beans.

Beer and cider
Meanwhile, Darryl Hinksman, Heineken’s head of on-trade customer marketing, points out that there will naturally be more sporting fixtures taking place over the summer — the Lions tour, the Ashes, Wimbledon and the Open at Muirfield to name but a few — combining, hopefully, with better weather.

Heineken will once again be the official sponsor of UEFA Champions League football and European Rugby’s Heineken Cup. “In addition to this, we recommend that publicans use the principles learnt during the busy calendar year of 2012 to help maximise smaller scale sporting and seasonal events, such as bank holidays and the London marathon,” he says.

Recent drink launches from Heineken have included Foster’s Radler, which is a 2% ABV lager cut with natural lemon juice, and new variants from Bulmers, Bulmers Bold Black Cherry and Bulmers Pressed Red Grape.

Also available in the on-trade in time for summer is Strongbow Pear (launched in 2012) and the 4.8% ABV Foster’s Gold, which is now set to go into pubs. And for consumers looking for an alternative to standard beers, Accolade brought out its Stone’s Ginger Joe in 2011, a 4% ABV alcoholic ginger beer.

“It’s the perfect longer alcoholic drink, as it is a modern twist on the traditional ginger beer,” says Clare Griffiths, European marketing director at Accolade Wines.

Soft drinks
“Soft drinks are currently worth £3.9bn in on-premise sales (CGA MAT to 6 October 2012), so offering a range of soft drinks that appeals to both children and adults is a sensible option for any pub or out-of-home outlet,” says Dave Turner, trade communications manager, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE).

He also points out that the main sales opportunity for soft drinks in a pub is at lunchtimes, although soft drinks consumption in late-afternoons is growing ahead of the market, he notes.

Meanwhile, CCE has brought out a new offering under its Schweppes brand, to target consumers buying into the growing lemonade sector. 


The limited edition sparkling Summer Punch has been designed for adults to share from a jug or for drinking over ice from a tall glass.

According to Nielsen, there continues to be strong demand for lower alcohol wines. “With this in mind we feel that our recently launched range of Harvest Fruits wines will be a big hit, combining a lower ABV of 10% with the benefit of being able to enjoy the drinks in a variety of ways,” says CWF’s Ingham.

The new range comprises three flavours: fruits of the forest wine, orchard fruits wine and cherry wine. The drinks are designed to be served over ice, or they can be used as a cocktail base, according to the company.

Meanwhile, Griffiths at Accolade Wines points out that consumers will be looking for light, fruit-driven wines in the warmer months. “New World rosé wines such as White Zinfandel from California are particular favourites in the summer time, so stocking varietals of these, such as Echo Falls (USA) and Hardys (Australia), is a must,” she says.

The company also has lighter (and lower calorie) drinking options, such as Banrock Station Light Wine and Light Rosé, both of which are 5.5% ABV.

Accolade has also brought out its Sparkling Collection ready-to-serve can format, which is ideal for safe outdoor consumption. The range includes Hardys Peach and Strawberry Bellinis, Banrock Station Infusions Summer Berries (5.5% ABV), Stone’s Ginger Punch (5.4% ABV) and Echo Falls Spritz Pinot Grigio and White Zinfandel Rosé (both 4% ABV).

Griffith’s also suggests that publicans should think about wine lists and adding wine recommendations to food menus to help boost sales this summer.

Pubs with gardens should, hopefully, have made sure that these trading spaces are nearly ready for outdoor socialising, despite the harsh winter weather.

Upselling drinks with food — particularly sharing drinks such as pitchers, and sharing food platters or barbecues — is an easy way of boosting profits. “Outdoor summer dining should be considered as an extension to a pub’s current food offering,” says Franco Sotgiu, managing director of Inka Charcoal Ovens.

The company has recently launched a range of charcoal ovens for use both inside and out. “Because the Inka is a closed barbecue it helps maintain the succulent texture of the meat, fish and vegetables far better than can be achieved in an open barbecue,” he says.

And Heinz has the perfect range of condiments for pubs wanting to go big on barbecues this summer. In its Heinz Kitchen range of premium sauces the company offers a Classic Burger sauce and a Firecracker sauce, to help pubs add interest to their burger menu.

“Burgers are a popular choice when it comes to fast food,” says brand manager Michelle Smith. “Customers expect great-tasting accompaniments that won’t spoil their meal. Heinz condiments are well recognised as a sign of quality and businesses can use this to help drive profits and footfall.”

All we need now is that sunshine.

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