Soft drinks

Soft drinks heat up for the winter

By Sara Hussein

- Last updated on GMT

Hot and spicy: Adding heat and spice to your soft drinks in the colder months will keep things current
Hot and spicy: Adding heat and spice to your soft drinks in the colder months will keep things current

Related tags Soft drinks Spice Alcoholic beverage

Summer will soon be fading and punters are going to be looking for drinks to excite them in the colder, darker months. While the alcohol categories have this covered, soft drinks are often associated with the summer only. Here’s how to keep your soft drinks offer hot in the cooler months

Soft drinks are currently undergoing a renaissance. The category has experienced something of a revival and makers are aiming to push softies during the colder months.

CGA Strategy states that 21.9 million consumers drink soft drinks in bars, pubs and restaurants and 30% drink premium soft drinks in the on-trade as an alternative to alcohol (Mintel Attitudes, February 2015).

Pairing with food

Pairing soft drinks with some of the seasonal dishes can make customers more inclined to experiment with non-alcoholic beverages.

Ed Hartridge, marketing director at Hartridges, says: “Offering soft drinks as part of a meal, paired with a daily special, is also a great option as more and more people look to consume less alcohol but still enjoy a night out.”

Look at your menu. Which seasonal dishes are going to be available this autumn/winter? Which ones are likely to sell best? Perhaps match a pork dish with an apple-flavoured soft drink.

The softies revival is an opportunity for licensees not to miss. With plenty of opportunities for pubs to get involved, don’t be afraid to push the boat out. Have an abundant range of soft drinks to embellish your back bar, draw customers in through social media and add food matchings to your selection.

The possibilities are, indeed, endless and this is undoubtedly just the start of things to come.

In the past year, on-trade sales grew in volume by 4% and by 8% in value, driven by the switch to more premium soft drinks (CGA Brand Index Value April 2016). However, in the midst of this exciting revival, soft drinks are still at risk of being perceived as predictable and boring, according to CGA Peach Brand Track 2016 and customers are demanding more from the category.

During autumn and winter this year, licensees can push sales of soft drinks and gain significant profit by unleashing their creativity by choosing the right ingredients, garnish and presentation.

In the months ahead it looks like hot serves will be very much at the heart of the category. Cordials and juices offer delicious non-alcoholic alternatives, infused with spices such as cinnamon and clove, mimicking the classic mulled wine.

Bottlegreen has two hot serve selections: Spiced Berry and Green Ginger & Lemongrass cordials. Amanda Grabham, SHS Drinks marketing ambassador, says: “There’s lots of opportunities for other bars to get behind this. Offering this lovely, really warming, beautiful flavour as a hot serve is just something a bit different to offer in the autumn/winter time. This is one thing that we do that works really well with the on-trade.”

Alternatively, hot fruit juices also fit well with the cold season, Hartridges suggests hot apple juice infused with winter spices, like cinnamon and clove, as an alternative to mulled cider. While Belvoir’s Mulled Winter Punch is an ideal substitute to punch or mulled wine, served with orange wedges.

Autumn also means bonfire night and Halloween, and with Christmas around the corner, pressès can add sparkle to party-season drinks.

‘Bespoke range of drinks’

Pev Manners, managing director of Belvoir Fruit Farms, says: “They offer the outlet an opportunity to experiment and develop their own bespoke range of drinks, giving them an edge over their competitors.” Both served as a seasonal mocktail or by themselves, Belvoir covers a wide variety of flavours in its core 25cl pressè range, from Raspberry Lemonade to Cox Apple.

Similarly, Bottlegreen’s Ginger & Lemongrass pressès also work well during this season and the maker suggests the Winter Scorcher mocktail, made with Ginger & Lemongrass cordial, fresh lime juice, cloudy lemonade and topped with three slices of Scotch bonnet chillies.

Soft decone

Cox’s apple and ginger beer packs a warming punch and resounds with the flavours of autumn. Using it in a mocktail, such as the Spicy Red Head – ginger beer, grapefruit and maple syrup – is an ideal fiery adult-friendly drink. Additionally, the Strudel-Doodle-Doo – with Cox apple pressè, butterscotch syrup, fresh lime juice and a pinch of all spice – also works well.

Around party season, Hartridges suggests adding a dash of cinnamon syrup to its Cranberry & Raspberry Fizz as an alternative to the Kir Royale.

Operators should not be afraid to use more exotic spices in alcohol-free drinks, such as nutmeg or cinnamon, which can be paired with citrus-based flavours to give them a real kick.

Oranges, satsumas and mandarins are at their best during the winter and are likely to offer a zesty and refreshing drink for customers during the cold, wet months ahead.

With this in mind, Roxana Parvizi, senior brand manager for Orangina, says: “Autumn and winter recipes often have spicy themes, with the likes of nutmeg, cinnamon and mint, or seasonal ingredients, such as citrus, passion fruit, apple and dark berries.”

Orangina’s Somerset Spice is an ideal marriage of spices and citrus fruits, with a spicy cinnamon syrup base, Orangina and lemon juice for a zesty and refreshing blend. Hartridges is also adding a Latin-inspired choice of drinks, such as its Celebrated Original Cola, made from fresh lemon wedges and a sprig of rosemary for a Cuba Libre-style soft drink. Similarly, the Christmas Cracker, made with Hartridges’ Orange Juice, clove syrup and a dash of soda is another alternative that’s worth serving.

Valuable ingredient

During the quieter months after Christmas, ginger beer can be a valuable ingredient for winter mocktails. Giles Babb, licensee of the Blue Bell Inn in Emsworth, Hampshire, says: “We do a hot ginger beer, with spices like cinnamon, so it becomes a kind of mulled ginger beer. We thought we’d do something a bit different after Christmas last year.”

Promoting soft drinks or mocktails to customers can be quite tricky. Presentation is a key factor for

operators. As Grabham says: “I think [operators] need to offer consumers drinks that are enticing and interesting, they need to offer drinks that are worth going out for.”

Non-alcoholic drinks shouldn’t be void of theatre and fun. According to Mintel, 41% of soft drink consumers are looking for more unusual flavours when they come to the bar. During Christmas, they want experience added with indulgence, says Global Brands-owned soft drinks company Franklin & Sons.

Soft third

“Around the Christmas period, there is a higher demand for indulgent drink offerings – from the one fifth of UK adults who now say they do not drink alcohol,” according to a spokesperson.

“The theatre of a serve plays a sig-nificant role in consumers’ on-trade experience.”

Licensees should pay great attention to the finer details of their drinks, creating eye-catching and creative designs with garnishes, such as lemon and orange peels, or edible flowers.

These little additions can make a great impact to the drink’s overall presentation. Parvizi says: “We know that 42% of consumers are more likely to order a soft drink if it’s presented attractively, decorations like a cinnamon stick, or a skewer of dark berries will ensure something special is added to the experience.”

Manners suggests a subtler approach: “Drinks should be displayed in the chiller at eye level to the customer to tempt them – it’s also a really effective back-bar display.”

Babb adds: “It’s mostly about thinking outside the box, there are lots of customers who are driving – they can’t have an alcoholic drink. It’s about making them feel like they’re welcome in the pub and not have the pressure of having a drink.” He suggests operators should advertise their mocktails on their chalkboards and make the most of social media.

Related topics Soft & Hot Drinks Soft drinks

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