Pub sector profiles

Interview: Britvic's Nigel Paine

By Jessica Mason

- Last updated on GMT

Paine: 'People are clearly conscientious about their wellbeing'
Paine: 'People are clearly conscientious about their wellbeing'

Related tags Soft drinks Soft drink Coca-cola

Nigel Paine is a man who is always looking to the future. Which is just as well in an industry that is increasingly innovating and searching for the next big thing. Jessica Mason reports.

Nigel Paine is full of energy and determination. His approach to working life mirrors his personality too. He admits he tends to pick up on small ideas and get quite excited and very passionate about them, without tending to let things go until something has been achieved.

“I love fast cars. But on the track, I race the clock, rather than other people,” he explains. And this is his approach to keeping a company like Britvic moving forwards — don’t mirror the competition, outperform your own successes and stay focused.

Paine’s journey into the drinks industry wasn’t an obvious one. He studied for a microelectronics degree in Manchester, because, by his own confession, “in 1989, it was ‘Madchester’” and he had burning ambitions to spend his weekends in the Hacienda nightclub.

This was followed by a six-month stint of travelling before returning to the UK to run an Oddbins off-licence, which is where he obtained his love for the drinks trade. Paine then moved to the parent company Seagram and began selling across all channels — to brewers and cash and carry stores — then a couple years after that, he went to the food company Danone before joining Britvic.

“I just really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the category, but I also just really enjoyed chatting to people every single day. At no point did I think of moving away from that, but then I went back to study and did an MBA just so that I could find out a bit more about business to stay in the FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) world. I did nine years in alcohol, and soft drinks is about as close as you get to it,” he muses.

In many ways, Paine has always had his eyes cast towards the future and this has been a good fit for a company like Britvic.

“What I really don’t like is sitting in an internal meeting talking about yesterday. What I want to do is be out in the trade, talking about tomorrow,” says Paine. admitting that “Britvic has changed a lot. It is eager to learn”, he says, pointing out that “there has been a structural element of change and back in 2005, we really started investing in innovation. Soft drinks have become a very exciting category, and pubs are where people look for new flavours and experiences”.


Having seen the evolution of other drinks categories first hand has also blessed Paine with the foresight to identify the opportunities that lie ahead.

“Since I started in the wine world, I have experience of a category that was very different back then [in the late ’90s]. Wine was just emerging and people were learning the differences between grape varieties. Plus, beer was still ‘lager’ or ‘bitter’ driven and there was certainly no talk of ‘craft beer’, but times are changing and so are drinks.

"We have done a lot of work, especially in terms of the innovation of draught products. This is something we are continuing to develop too. From a product development point of view, the vast majority of our innovation is going into the leisure environment,” he explains.

In addition, according to Paine, soft drinks and dispense systems have really upped their game. “Long gone are the days when you’d see a warm glass full of slightly carbonated cola. The quality that you get out of draught now is much higher because there are more controls on the equipment.

Part of this work, which we did a year ago, is to improve the quality of the syrup in these systems, but we also do quite a lot of work at outlets to make sure we are supporting our staff to get the best possible serve from a soft drink. People are looking for quality and they are willing to pay for something as long as they get good value. All of those fundamentals don’t change.”


So, what has changed? Paine describes how people are more informed about ingredients and their health than ever before and this has meant that drinks creation teams have needed to understand how savvy their audience has become to remain a few steps ahead of their needs and answer them directly with products that suit them.

“People are willing to be a bit more daring and different. They are becoming more aware. It has been a subject matter for my entire time in soft drinks. Soft drinks brands are becoming more creative too. We want to be on the front foot and we are working closely with the Government to create a healthier, low-calorie product.

“People are clearly conscientious about their wellbeing. The development [of soft drinks] now seems to be behind the lower calorie input. For instance, if you look at an average bottle of J20 now, it contains 75 calories, whereas when Britvic first launched it, J20 would have been 50% higher than that. We have done a lot of work to make our products still taste good while having a low-calorie count.”


Social media has also played a crucial role in the way pubs and bars can create a buzz around driving trial, admits Paine. “People communicate with one another a lot quicker. It changes consumer demand — the speed at which things get recognised — and the amount of noise new drinks receive on social media, which then spreads around and gets a following of people, is massive.”

Things are moving forwards quickly for Britvic. “There will be more products and flavour variants coming out this year than we would have seen from an entire range back 20 years ago,” says Paine, hinting that he thinks pubs and bars continue to be a great place to launch these new products.

“It’s where J20 was born — in the pub world — before it went into convenience stores and the grocery sector. There will be products in the future that we will bring out and aim directly at the pub world and we will develop them there before they go elsewhere,” he reveals, adding: “There are also other products that currently exist in the convenience sector that would be great in pubs. But I can’t tell you too much about those yet. What I can tell you is we have no intention of standing still.” 


  • 1992: Completed physics and microelectronics degree at Manchester University, went travelling and took a part-time role in an Oddbins before being made manager within three months
  • 1993-1999: Worked way up through owning-company Seagram into the bigger wine and spirit sector in sales roles
  • 2000: Got married to wife Jo and completed an MBA
  • 2002: Joined Danone as GB & Ireland account director
  • 2004: Moved to join Britvic to run the grocery channel
  • 2008: Moved to head up logistics and supply planning function
  • 2010: Headed up the GB programmes and strategies
  • 2012: Became commercial director of Britvic Soft Drinks
  • 2013: All Britvic ‘out of home’ channels are merged

Related topics Soft & Hot Drinks

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