Festive season ideal time for the soft sell

The right range, merchandised effectively, can pay dividends for operators

• Christmas is a key occasion for soft drinks sales, and operators are advised to stock a wide range, including products consumers can trade up to.
• Christmas is a key occasion for soft drinks sales, and operators are advised to stock a wide range, including products consumers can trade up to.

IT’S no secret that the trade sells more drinks over the festive season than at other times of year, but it’s not just beer, wine and spirits that operators should be considering ahead of Christmas.

Soft drinks also traditionally see a spike in sales over the festive period – and the firms behind some of the biggest brands say now is the time for operators to review their soft drinks range in order to take advantage of the seasonal uplift.
According to Britvic, soft drinks is the third largest drinks category in the on-trade, after beer and spirits, and worth around £2.7 billion a year; it claims on-trade customers spent, on average, 33% more on soft drinks in the four weeks leading up to last Christmas than at any other time of the year.
Andrew Boyd, commercial director at Britvic, said the festive season provides the ideal opportunity for licensees to “up the tempo” of their soft drinks offer.
“Research shows that the pub occasion tends to start later at this time of year, on average starting at or after 8pm,” he said.
“A quick drink with friends is also more likely to turn into a big night out and this time of the year sees an increase in mixed group socialising.
“With all of these factors taking place, it is important to offer a varied drinks range to cater for all types of consumers, including those that do not want to drink alcohol.”
Pairing soft drinks with food is one of the best ways to grow sales over the festive season, said Boyd, who advised operators to consider flagging up soft drinks on their food menus.
“Food is a bigger driver for soft drink consumption at Christmas so it can pay to offer special promotions and deals on food or snacks to drive footfall, maximising soft drink sales,” he said. “Creating food and drink menus that complement each other and the winter season are sure to drive interest from consumers to make their visit more of an occasion.”
Also important is stocking a range that provides opportunities for upselling, according to Wes McKenna at Coca-Cola Enterprises.
“There are a number of ways in which licensees can encourage consumers to trade up to premium soft drinks this Christmas and all year round,” said McKenna.
“In some outlets, the soft drinks offer can be fairly limited, so consumers revert to trusted favourites such as a cola, lemonade or orange juice, which they know will be available.
“However, 83% of customers would appreciate a more interesting recommendation and 18% are then likely to trade up to a more premium drink if suggested by staff.”
Stocking a selection of soft drinks targeted specifically at adults can also help encourage trading up, according to Halewood International.
“Adult soft drinks is a small but growing category, and the John Crabbie’s brand has added £1.25m to the category over the last year,” said Ron Young of Halewood International.
“Feedback from pubs shows that they are looking for credible great quality adult soft drinks, and Halewood International has deliberately chosen interesting and unusual flavours that are targeted at adults.
“Consumers also still want to treat themselves when they’re out and about, and so quality, crafted soft drinks allow publicans to offer consumers the chance to trade up.”
Visibility also plays an important role in driving sales, said McKenna at CCE, who recommended publicans dedicate 30% of their chilled space to soft drinks.
The outlets that stock the right range and promote it effectively will reap the rewards, said AG Barr head of marketing Adrian Troy.
“Our advice to [publicans] is clear: stock the leading brands your customers want, merchandise them effectively and you’ll enjoy a bumper Christmas,” he said.