A trend towards more premium products is said to be having an impact on sales of soft drinks in the on-trade, with customers now expecting a wider choice of products and a better quality of serve in Scotland’s pubs, bars and restaurants.
As a result, licensees have been advised to make sure their soft drinks offer is of the same quality as their other drinks products.
“Choice is key when it comes to an appealing soft drinks offering,” said Alan Hay, on-trade controller at AG Barr.
“When consumers dine or drink away from home, they expect to have a good choice of drinks available.
“Interesting drinks are key – with consumers who are prepared to pay more for a premium offering and they will make a considered choice.
“Publicans need to make this choice available and offer unique experiences for their customers.”
As with alcoholic drinks, offering drinks consumers can’t recreate at home is key to maximising sales.
“We’re certainly seeing a tendency in pubs and bars for people to order drinks that differ from those which they usually have at home, with new variants of adult soft drinks and mixers playing a role in the growth of the category,” said Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola Enterprises.
That some people opt not to drink alcohol is also contributing to sales of soft drinks in the on-trade, according to Simon Green, marketing director at Global Brands, the firm behind the Franklin & Sons range of soft drinks.
Quoting figures from the Office of National Statistics, Green said more than a fifth of UK adults now claim to be teetotal.
“Pubs and bars can capitalise on this trend by offering a better choice of soft drinks that meet the demand for more premium products and a more interesting range of flavours,” he said.
Deciding which products to stock can be a challenge, but perseverance can pay off, said Amanda Grabham, marketing director for soft drinks at SHS Drinks, the firm behind Shloer.
Grabham said there is “no hard and fast rule on the number of lines to stock”, but the more choice the better.
“A family-focused pub should have a differently balanced soft drink offering to a more adult-oriented bar, but I would say that pubs generally need to offer as broad a range as practicable and be guided in their choice by closely monitoring rates of sale, taking out slow sellers and bringing in new lines to keep the range fresh and find out what sells well in their outlets,” said Grabham, who added that incorporating soft drinks into meal-deal offers can help to drive sales.
But creating a ‘premium’ soft drinks offer is about more than the product range.
The quality of serve is also said to be a vital part of the experience.
Russell Kirkham, senior marketing manager, out of home, at Britvic, said customers are “increasingly looking for premium experiences at all price points and at every occasion”.
“Premium soft drinks should always be served in branded glassware with ice and the correct garnish to heighten the drinking experience and drive repeat purchase,” said Kirkham.
Garnishes can be another effective way to boost the visual appeal – and flavour – of a soft drink, according to Graham Carr-Smith, creator of soft drink brand Qcumber.
“A slice of lemon, lime or cucumber can really add something to a soft drink,” he said. “Plus, adding a slice of cucumber or a sprig of garden mint shows that an outlet really cares about presenting its soft drinks in the best possible way. In their own home, any customer can be forgiven for running out of ice, fresh garnish or even clean, matching glassware.
“The same leeway cannot be afforded to any publican who is serious about maximising sales of soft drinks.”
And as with any chilled product, visibility is vital to getting the most out of soft drinks.
“With regard to the chiller, we would say that many pubs are missing a fantastic marketing opportunity by stocking bottled water in the fridge,” said Pev Manners, managing director of Belvoir Fruit Farms.
“Consumers expect any pub to have a bottled water option and don’t need to see it.
“Instead, the space should be filled with soft drink bottles to ensure they are not only visible to the customer but served at the correct temperature.”