Don’t forget a soft approach this year

Operators urged to meet non-drinkers’ needs as demand expected to grow

• Operators would do well to stock a wider range of soft drinks over the festive season in order to provide choice for non-drinkers, say drinks firms.

IT’S the category that’s often forgotten about as Champagne, cocktails and spirits take centre stage.

Drinks firms, however, say operators would be wise not to overlook soft drinks this festive season as demand is expected to increase.
Graham Carr-Smith, founder of Qcumber, said: “The soft drinks category is often overlooked by pubs at Christmas.
“For people watching their alcohol intake over the extended festive period or for drivers, the range of adult soft drinks on offer is of real importance.
“Indeed, the driver in a group might even have the casting vote as to the final choice of destination so it’s important to offer soft drinks that are interesting and a little bit special.”
He said there is increasing demand for more variety and alternatives among non-drinkers.

Consumers particularly like to experiment over the festive season.

And he suggested consumers were willing to experiment with different soft drinks over the festive season, which is why Qcumber has expanded its own range.
“Consumers are always keen to try new and interesting offerings and refreshing the range presents the chance for people to experience something different,” said Carr-Smith.
“Soft drinks aren’t a high risk purchase category – people rarely encounter something totally unpalatable and the drinks are rarely prohibitively expensive – so people are genuinely prepared to give new offerings a chance.
“Consumers particularly like to experiment over the festive season.”
Alan Hay, on-trade controller at AG Barr, whose brands include Irn-Bru, Strathmore, Snapple and Rubicon, said mocktails provide another festive opportunity for operators to target non-drinkers.
He said: “There is an increased demand for mocktails at Christmas as non-drinkers want to feel part of the occasion and mocktails provide the perfect solution.
“Consumers are increasingly looking to try new flavours from around the world and AG Barr has developed a range of mocktail recipes for its popular Rubicon brand to meet this demand.”
Amanda Grabham, marketing director, soft drinks, at SHS Drinks – whose portfolio includes Shloer – said the festive period is actually one of the peak periods for soft drinks.
“[Non drinkers], along with designated drivers and mums-to-be, still want to feel part of the festive celebrations and this provides a good opportunity for licensees to increase the revenue potential from their soft drink sales by offering a wider choice of adult-oriented soft drinks and premium lines,” said Grabham.
Last Christmas the firm appealed directly to consumers in the celebratory spirit with the launch of two new ‘celebration’ style soft drink lines with ‘popping corks’.
“Christmas and New Year are times for celebrations and customers are more likely to treat themselves so it’s certainly worth putting more focus on or expanding the range of soft drinks to include celebratory lines along with seasonal flavours and limited editions,” said Grabham.
Mocktails and other celebratory drinks are not the only soft options operators should be considering this Christmas.

There is an increased demand for mocktails at Christmas.

Bottled water should also be a consideration, according to Highland Spring.
The company’s senior brand manager, Scott Dickson, said: “At Christmas bottled water offers
outlets an effective way to boost sales per customer by offering it as a ‘spacer’ to be consumed between alcoholic drinks.
“Staying hydrated when consuming alcohol is vital and offering a bottle of water with wine or spirit purchases at the bar or with a meal encourages responsible drinking as well as benefitting profit margins.”
Dispense is also a key consideration for soft drinks over the festive season, said Stephen Charles, managing director at equipment specialist Vivreau.
“At any time of year, it’s important to have a wide range of soft drinks on offer, but when it comes to the festive season, it’s absolutely vital to diversify your menu even further with more people indulging in a night out,” said Charles.
“Pleasing an increasingly demanding group of consumers at Christmas time can be done by utilising multifunctional equipment; choose a piece of kit that will enable operators to serve a variety of drinks types with ease, as this will save you time, money and effort in the long run.”