Soft drinks return to growth in UK on-trade

Britvic Long Mixed DrinksSoft drinks are back in growth in Britain’s pubs, bars and clubs, increasing by 1.5 per cent in value last year, according to the latest Britvic Soft Drinks Review.

The category-wide report, based on independent Nielsen and CGA market data, revealed that sales in the on-trade rose to £2.7billion in terms of value last year after a value decline in 2011.

Growth was attributed to the ongoing popularity of cola and positive performances of the sub-categories of glucose stimulant drinks, flavoured carbonates and juice drinks.

The annual report also revealed that total market sales were £9.9billion in 2012, with grocery, convenience and impulse sales rising by 2.8 per cent in value to £7.2billion.

Value sales of carbonated soft drinks rose by 5.2 per cent to £2billion while energy drinks and cola benefited from a resurgence of drinkers mixing alcoholic spirits with soft drinks.

Cola remained the largest soft drinks sub-category in pubs, bars and clubs, accounting for almost half of all soft drinks volume sales. Dispense cola drove the growth of the cola sub-category while packaged cola declined in value and volume.

Value sales of cola rose by 3.2 per cent in 2012 to just under £1.1billion, driven by the performance of Pepsi, Coca-Cola and their diet equivalents.

Draught soft drink sales remained higher than packaged in 2012, accounting for a 54 per cent share of value sales in pubs, bars and clubs and 59 per cent of volume sales.

Flavoured carbonates enjoyed “robust” growth in pubs, bars and clubs, turning around their underperformance of the previous year. Successfully tapping into consumer flavour preferences when drinking out of the home, fruit-flavoured carbonates saw value sales increase by a fifth to £102.6million, supported by an 11 per cent increase in volume.

Despite a struggling performance in the grocery, convenience and impulse market, lemonade performed strongly in pubs, bars and clubs, maintaining its position as the second-largest sub-segment. Annual growth rates mirrored that of cola with a 6.2 per cent increase in value sales. R Whites continued to lead the segment, worth just under £180million.

Juice drinks were among the fastest-growing sub-categories in 2012, with value and volume growth of 10.5 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively. Britvic remained the leading operator in the segment, driven by the popularity of adult soft drink brands such as J2O, which again benefited from a number of limited editions and new flavours.

Despite only accounting for a small share of overall value sales, glucose stimulant drinks showed rapid growth in 2012, with value sales climbing by 29 per cent to £193million and volume sales up by 19 per cent, partially due to an increase in the use of energy drinks as mixers.

Britvic remained the leading soft drinks supplier in the UK’s pubs, bars and clubs sector with a 45 per cent value share, with Pepsi extending its position as the leading brand in the cola segment in the on-trade.

Paul Graham, customer management director of Britvic, said: “It’s accurate to say the on-trade has faced continued challenges and a summer that failed to meet expectations. However, licensees and publicans should remain optimistic. Behind beer, soft drinks are the second largest consumed drink making them a vital part of the on-trade landscape and are enjoyed by all.

“The soft drinks category once again managed to prove its resilience in another tough year, combating poor weather and financial pressures with the offer of quality, premium out-of-home experiences and value for money for consumers.”

In hotels and restaurants, soft drinks distribution experienced only a slight growth of 0.1 per cent despite increased tourism in 2012 and a rise in the number of hotels in and around London. While volume sales remained static in hotels, value sales rose by five per cent, largely driven by strong performances of the cola, juice drinks and lemonade sub-segments.

Paul added: “Even though our golden summer of sport didn’t quite deliver the uplift in soft drinks sales that some might have expected, there are still many reasons to be optimistic about soft drinks and the future of the category. Pepsi and Diet Pepsi have seen notable success within pubs and clubs, and our focus on dispense has delivered operational benefits for customers, including speed of serve and consistent quality, whilst also delivering value-for-money for consumers during economically challenged times.”

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