Soft drinks are worth more than £4.4bn, says Coca-Cola European Partners senior trade communications manager Amy Burgess.
“With statistics showing more than a fifth of people are choosing not to drink alcohol at all, the category is arguably more important to operators than ever before,” she explains.
“The rising demand for premium soft drinks can be linked to this, as consumers look for drinks that are more exciting and sophisticated while out and about.
“In addition, traditional favourites like Coca-Cola original taste and Schweppes Classic Tonic Water remain popular, highlighting the versatility of the category and consumer demand for choice.”
However, Lee Hyde, beverage innovation manager at syrup provider Monin, adds that the modern drinker demands bespoke soft drink serves alongside non-alcoholic staples.
“It’s no longer just about offering a selection of standard soft drinks,” he adds. “Consumers expect on-trend flavours and premium ingredients in every drink.
“In this competitive marketplace, pubs need to seek out a point of difference, adapting their menus with new and seasonal varieties.”
With CGA Brand Track figures revealing that two thirds of drinkers proactively try to lead healthy lifestyles, Britvic’s OOH commercial director Rachel Phillips explains that the soft drinks category offers a unique opportunity.
“Since the Soft Drinks Industry Levy came into effect last year, we’ve seen an uplift in people switching from full sugar drinks to low and no-added-sugar ones across the board,” she explains. “This shows that consumers have embraced the change, and manufacturers are adapting their brands.
“For the licensed trade, it’s important we continue to offer choice in this growing market – particularly as the trend for healthier alternatives is also leading people to cut down on alcohol or avoid it altogether.
“That means pubs and bars need to up their game and the soft drinks category is becoming increasingly important to help them drive sales.”
However, Phillips adds that on top of the continuing appetite for low and no-sugar soft drinks, premium options are growing in popularity.
“One way for operators to capitalise on this is by elevating the presentation and experience of serving soft drinks,” she suggests.
Burgess adds that mocktails have become increasingly popular among consumers craving exciting drinks they can share on social media without the typically high ABV.
“With 29% of people claiming that they would consider ordering a mocktail if offered, they represent a significant opportunity for hotel bars and restaurants looking to maximise their sales,” she explains.
“It’s advisable to offer a menu of exciting non-alcoholic mixed drink options to meet the demand of teetotallers.”
“Non-drinkers are looking for something more adventurous than the reliable heavyweights lemonade, cola or fruit juice and want these drinks to be accessible in more drinking locations, such as gastropubs, and not just at high-end bars and restaurants,” according to Ounal Bailey, co-founder at WiseHead Productions.
“Non-drinkers want something well-crafted, more adventurous and to feel that they aren’t missing out.
“For example, London Essence’s range of unique crafted sodas that, like its range of tonics, feature a variety of contemporary flavour pairings which appeal to the sophisticated drinker.
“Our flavours, including Rhubarb & Cardamom Soda and Peach & Jasmine Soda, are combinations you may not see elsewhere in the industry as we are always looking to see how we can excite people’s palates in an original way.
“We also focus on delivering a less sweet profile, which is better suited to a more adult palate,” continues Wise Head’s co-founder Bailey.
“Our use of distilled botanical essences in every drink in the range allows us to create the purest flavours without the excessive use of sugar.
“Given 66% of UK consumers agree that getting yourself used to less-sweet flavours is the best way to cut down sugar (source: Mintel), we certainly believe we are on-trend.”