By all accounts the season has changed and, with it, a change in the temperature is sure to come in the months ahead.
Licensees should be considering what drinks to offer to ensure that, as the weather hots up, so do their takings.
According to Edward Hartridge, sales and marketing director for Hartridges Soft Drinks, it is easy for licensees to feel bombarded by the number of brands shouting for shelf space in bar fridges.
“What’s important,” says the soft drinks chief, “is your customer demographic and how you create a drinks selection that will be compelling for them, specifically. It’s as much about achieving an interesting spread of flavours, drink types and good-looking packaging, as it is about choosing products and brands that chime with your own values.”
Hartridge believes consumers need and want to see a difference between their at-home and out-of-home drinking experiences, meaning that licensees need to pay close attention to perfecting the delivery of their summertime drinks offering.
“When consumers go out, they’re more eager to treat themselves to experiences they can’t or don’t feel inclined to replicate at home,” he explains. “They want tasty and interesting brands they can’t necessarily buy in the supermarket, served in a way that makes it feel like a treat they don’t mind paying a bit more for. This means pubs need to keep creating a point of difference through the range of drink types and brands they offer.”
Quest for long drinks
George Nightingale, whose pub, Spoken in Exmouth, Devon, won the Best Spirits category at last year’s Great British Pub Awards, has found customers are looking for longer drinks during summer.
“People are drinking for an extended period of time so, from a responsible drinking point of view as well as to drive sales, it’s important to have an interesting selection of long drinks on offer,” he explains. The award-winning licensee is set to launch his own gin – Quick Gin – very soon, so gin cocktails will be a big feature of the pub’s summer drinks menu.
“As Quick Gin is heavily ‘citrusy’, we will be offering our own signature serve with a slice of orange, rather than the standard lemon or lime and will be offering twists on classics, such as a Cosmopolitan using the gin and its orange notes, as well as a range of other longer drinks,” adds Nightingale.
With an uplift in demand for cocktails during the summer months, one problem facing operators is how to serve customers efficiently.
The Devon bar is currently working with whisky producer Monkey Shoulder to trial its Konga Shaker, allowing staff to create batch cocktails for group serves. “Our drink sales increase substantially during the summer months. The shaker will add some theatre while increasing our ability to serve customers efficiently.
There will be a slight reduction in revenue but considerable efficiency savings,” explains the bar owner.
The Konga Shaker became popular in the 1930s with the rise of cocktails and allows bar staff, through its design, to batch-shake cocktails. The shaker is larger than average and has handles.
What’s hot for summer
So, what drinks are forecast to be hot this summer? With the category in growth, publicans should be paying close attention to soft drinks, according to many analysts.
Unsurprisingly, the warmer months are a core period for soft drinks sales, particularly as 30% of consumers now drink premium soft drinks as an alternative to alcohol (Mintel: Attitudes towards premium soft drinks, February 2015).
Last year, soft drinks sold an additional 13.1m serves over the average summer four-week period, compared with the average non-summer four-week period (CGA On Premise data 31 December 2016).
And with summer being the season for long, refreshing drinks, Lee Cannon, out-of-home category development manager for Lucozade Ribena Suntory, whose brands include Orangina, recommends stocking versatile, premium adult soft drinks that can be used as an ingredient in cocktails and mocktails or served as refreshing drinks on their own.
With Orangina experiencing a 45.5% year-on-year growth, a low-calorie version, Orangina Light, is also available to appeal to consumers looking for low-calorie mixers. “Premiumisation of soft drinks will continue to drive growth in the category, with consumers focusing on natural, high-quality ingredients, production and enhanced taste qualities v cheaper alternatives,” explains Cannon.
“Some 65% of soft drink drinkers want to see a healthier range on offer, so stock low and no-calorie options.”
Adding to the selection of premium options available to help licensees boost summer sales, is the Franklin & Sons’ range of soft drinks, tonics and mixers from Global Brands. According to the company’s marketing controller, Justin Horsman, the offer meets customers’ raised expectations of quality.
“The range is made with the finest all-natural ingredients, handpicked and sourced from small speciality suppliers. It also has an incredible London back story, that goes back more than 100 years, which operators can share with their customers, building a rapport and increasing dwell time,” he explains.
In conjunction with the international bartenders’ school, Shaker UK, Franklin & Sons has developed a range of bespoke cocktails. They go from a basic to a complex level of build, such as the Northern Connection – a combination of its Cloudy Apple & Yorkshire Rhubarb drink, two flavours predicted to be on-trend this summer – and gin, fig liqueur and lemon juice.
The company has also recently launched a new soft drinks flavour – Valencian Orange & Pink Grapefruit with lemongrass – again, capitalising on flavours that are set to be high on the popularity list this summer.
According to Nick Yates, sales and operations director for Vimto out-of-home, when it comes to selecting which brands to stock, less is more. “There’s a growing choice for operators, as the market adapts to the trend of craft and artisan soft drinks, but having too many varieties can make it confusing for consumers,” he argues. “However, it’s still important to provide enough variety to suit the taste preferences of a range of consumers, including healthy options for those who want them.”
Vimto out-of-home’s Feel Good drinks range helps publicans to capitalise on the trend for both healthy and premium drinks. Available in 275ml glass bottles, as well as a host of other formats including a child-friendly Tetra pack, Feel Good drinks is focusing on increased demand for 100% natural products.
The popularity of gin has exploded in recent years and shows no signs of abating, with drinkers eager to try different flavoured gins, mixers and garnishes. Pitchers of gin-based cocktails will come into their own as the warmer months approach, with customers looking for lighter, fruitier varieties of their ‘mother’s ruin’.
East Sussex cocktail bar, the Gin Tub in Hove, boasts more than 80 gins on its menu, all served as doubles with a premium tonic included in the price. Fruit and herbs feature heavily and include tonic varieties such as elderflower, Sicilian lemon, cherry and mint as well as aromatic and cardamom versions from Fever-Tree, Peter Spanton and Original. Fresh garnish combinations such as thyme and lime and pink grapefruit with lavender and lemon zest are also used at the gin palace.
Another flavour to savour this summer is cucumber. So much so, that The English Drinks Company has launched its own Cucumber Gin. Made with a subtle cucumber infusion, the gin was a silver award winner at the 2016 International Wine and Spirit competition (IWSC) and makes an interesting addition to any summer drinks offering. The company’s product portfolio also comprises Qcumber soft drink, a gently sparkling cucumber-flavoured spring water, also available with mint and ginger variants and a Qcumber Premium Mixer.
Championing all things botanical, New World Trading Company sites, the Botanist in Birmingham and Alderley Edge, feature cocktails with botanical twists. Winner of the Best Drinks Offer at the 2017 Publican Awards, the company’s sites offer creations such as a blackberry and mint julep and an elderflower and lavender Bellini, as well as sharing drinks, served novelly in watering cans.
According to research by Nielsen, fruit cider is the fastest-growing segment within the cider category – experiencing double-digit growth – with bottled fruit ciders and craft beers accounting for 12% of on-trade volume, yet making up 20% of value (CGA Strategy Brand Index).
As such, there is huge potential for licensees to maximise profit margins by stocking a range of fruit ciders in their back-bar fridge. Exmouth’s Spoken bar will be increasing its fruit cider offering to eight different varieties to cater for the regular summer uplift in demand.
So, with a plethora of new products and serve suggestions available from suppliers, it’s time to turn up the heat on your summer drinks offering.