The report also revealed hospitality operators missed out on £100.2bn of sales within 15 months of the pandemic through not being able to sell soft drinks.
Britvic explained the on-trade could benefit from the demand for premium soft drinks and cocktails after consumers traded up to expensive beverages at home during lockdowns, and continue to elevate their experiences in licensed venues with high-quality serves.
Some 36% of the report's survey respondents said they missed going out during lockdowns while consumer sentiment towards premium has changed so much that 58% said they would be willing to trade up to a premium soft drink if it was paired with food, presenting an opportunity to outlets as guests seek a well-rounded premium experience including both food and drink.
A step-up in cocktail quality has also been recognised in the report with soft drinks and mixers seen as being able to play a bigger role in the cocktail space through no and low alcohol alternatives as 35% of consumers agreed they would upgrade their soft drink to a premium non-alcoholic alternative. Mixed drinks and cocktails are also set to continue their pre-pandemic growth, with sales already on the rise and distribution tracking up by 5.3% in the third quarter of 2021.
Like-for-like cocktail sales in licensed venues rose from 6% to 9.9%, equating to £1 in every £10 of licensed sales between Apr 2021 and Oct 2021, further cementing the segment’s continued growth.
“Premium has long been a lucrative and growing drinks trend,” said Katy Watts, head of channel development (Foodservice & Licensed) at Britvic. “However, it is clear the pandemic has sped up this trend as consumers sought to treat themselves during lockdowns, gaining a taste for the best-quality drinks they can afford, which they now want in outlet.
“On the whole, the pandemic did not affect consumers’ desire for premium drinks, with many opting for premium food and drink options to enjoy at home when they couldn’t go out. The desire for quality is here to stay, as 15% of consumers predict they will exclusively visit premium venues, showing upsells can help to recoup lost revenue from the pandemic.”
She added: “Customers of all types of income are looking to have memorable experiences in the on-trade, having missed out on so much during the pandemic. It is important outlets provide a premium experience, not only in price, but through how drinks are presented. Extra profits can be earned by elevating a drink’s appearance, such as through garnishes or nice glassware. It can also be done by making something customisable, such as a house soda offering with a variety of flavoured syrups to add to the soda.”
On health, the report found healthy or healthier options will continue to grow for customers with 58% saying they would like to see more healthy soft drinks options in venues. A further three quarters of consumers say it is important to have healthier options on menus when eating and drinking out, rising to 84% of 18 to 34-year-olds.
The report concluded eating and drinking out is the top spending priority for consumers in the coming year which, as well as being encouraging for outlets, highlights how important the licensed sector is to consumers. Regular pub and bar visitors were the quickest to return to venues when restrictions lifted, with 34% visiting weekly and 31% going monthly.
“A strong cohort of regular customers were ready to support the sector with plans to increase their time spent in venues in 2022,” Watts said. “However, just two in five pub and bar occasions are drink-only, which means operators must work harder to increase wet revenue through the likes of premium options, as well as diversify their offering in order to bolster add-on sales.”