Drinks firms have told SLTN that, through focusing on the right range of products and promoting soft drinks with the same commitment as alcoholic drinks, operators can cash in on the category this year.
Julie Ingham of Continental Wine and Food, UK distributor of fruit juice brand Rauch, said January is a month when “thoughts do turn to healthier options”, with soft drinks an increasingly popular choice at this time of year.
However, she warned against complacency from publicans.
“Whether the consumer’s preference is for a non-alcoholic drink because they are driving or looking for something healthy and nutritious, the range of soft drinks available can be very uninspiring,” she said.
Alan Hay of AG Barr, parent company of Strathmore water and Irn Bru, agreed that it is “essential” to meet customers’ requirements, highlighting that in the new year “many consumers are looking for low calorie options after indulging at Christmas”.
“Choice is always important when it comes to soft drinks, but in the new year it becomes even more essential to stock a wide range,” said Hay.
“With many consumers opting for refreshing soft drinks after an indulgent festive period, stocking an interesting range with plenty of choice is a simple way to ensure your venue has great appeal.”
However, Amanda Grabham, head of brand marketing at Shloer parent firm SHS Drinks, said the healthier living tradition in January can have a minimal impact on sales.
An interesting range with plenty of choice ensures your venue has great appeal.
“January is traditionally seen as a month of abstinence from alcohol to detox from the excesses of the festive season and the start of new year resolutions to adopt a healthier lifestyle,” said Grabham.
“While there may be some incremental sales from ‘dry January’ there isn’t a noticeable spike in soft drink sales in the new year.”
Instead, Grabham suggested publicans take a long view when it comes to soft drinks, looking to the year ahead and making the most of the opportunities provided by a good soft drinks range.
“In addition to the non-drinkers, there are always going to be people who aren’t drinking alcohol on social occasions because they are driving or because they are mums-to-be, as well as those who are switching to alcohol alternatives either at lunchtimes or during the course of an evening because they want to moderate their alcohol intake as part of a healthier balanced lifestyle,” she said.
“That adds up to a lot of potential soft drinks consumers.
“In light of this we’d say that January is a good time to review and update your soft drinks range for the year ahead so that it is attractive to today’s more discerning consumer.”
Attracting a “discerning consumer” throughout the year requires variety, according to Graham Carr-Smith, founder of cucumber-flavoured soft drink QCumber.
“Licensees should try to offer something a little bit different to other outlets and not be afraid to dare to be different,” he said.
But building a strong and varied soft drinks range is only part of the battle, according to Carr-Smith.
It’s also the publican’s duty to make sure the soft drinks range is presented in a way that is attractive to consumers.
“Listing soft drink options on food menus is another great way to grow sales and this approach helps to steer people away from their default choices,” said Carr-Smith.
We’d say that January is a good time to review and update your soft drinks range.
“Consumers are always keen to try something new and interesting when it comes to soft drinks to accompany meals, but they need to be made aware of what’s available.”
Food matching was also championed by Simon Speers of Bottlegreen.
The managing director of the firm, which produces a number of flavoured cordials, highlighted a “groundswell” in food pairing, citing the growing popularity of matching beer and cider with food, as well as the tradition of pairing food with wine, as arguments in favour of matching soft drinks with food.
“We see absolutely no reason why the same approach can’t be adopted for adult soft drinks,” said Speers.
However, food pairing is just one of many ways publicans can promote soft drinks in their bars.
Simon Green, marketing director at Global Brands, whose portfolio includes energy drink Kick, said there are several “simple steps” publicans can take to market their energy drinks more efficiently.
“These include basics such as featuring logos on their drinks menus and around their bar, digital screen media and POS, in addition to telling consumers what mixers and serves are available,” said Green.
A comprehensive approach to soft drinks promotion and serves was also supported by Coca Cola Enterprises (CCE).
A spokeswoman for the company highlighted the importance of the ‘perfect serve’ for soft drinks.
“More and more pubs strive to serve every beer in a branded glass, as it adds to the experience and quality perception,” she said.
“Soft drinks should be no different.
“Appealing glassware adds to the quality experience and is something that many consumers cannot deliver at home.
“In an increasingly competitive market, offering consumers a real choice of quality soft drinks with consistent service is crucial as part of delivering the best customer experience and driving repeat visits.”