The nights are as long as they are going to get and the days – if occasionally a bit wet – are warming up, which puts refreshing drinks in the driving seat.
That was the consensus from some of the firms behind the biggest soft drinks brands in the UK on-trade, who said there are a number of steps publicans can take in order to ride the heat wave and keep soft drinks sales up throughout the summer.
Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), the firm behind Coca-Cola and Schweppes in the UK, said refreshment is the “top priority” for customers during summer.
“People turn to pubs and bars to socialise on a hot day, and it’s important to offer a range of soft drinks to appeal to this demand during warmer weather,” said Burgess.
“It’s for this reason that long drinks served over ice, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic, are popular at this time of year.”
Long drinks may hit the spot for many customers this summer, but Burgess suggested this could also be the time for publicans to put some more fruit flavours on their soft drinks menu.
“Summer is a time when consumers are also looking for bold, fruit flavours to maximise refreshment, so offering a wide choice of variants is important,” she said.
Adrian Troy, head of marketing at AG Barr, the firm behind Irn-Bru, Snapple and Strathmore water, agreed that “above all else” customers visiting the on-trade when it’s hot “are looking for thirst-quenching, refreshing drinks”.
And it’s not just the adults who’ll have built up a thirst in the warmer weather; operators should also ensure they’re stocked up on refreshing soft drinks for kids.
Emma Hunt, head of marketing for Vimto, said licensees should “ensure to offer a range of soft drinks that caters for the whole family, stocking PETs and tetra formats for the kids alongside the premium offerings available for grown ups”.
Adrian Troy agreed that licensees should stock a range of soft drinks that caters to kids, adding that regardless of the weather “people will still visit pubs”.
The right range is a first step, but there’s more operators can do to drive soft drink sales, according to Troy.
“We advise operators to display their soft drinks prominently to let their customers see the full range they stock and always include soft drinks on any menus.
“Make use of POS from suppliers as it is proven to have a significant impact on sales,” he said.
An eye-catching chiller set-up isn’t the only way publicans can use looks to pull in more sales.
Troy added that customers “buy with their eyes” and suggested licensees apply this to their serves – taking the warmer weather into account.
“If a drink looks good, [customers] will be tempted to buy,” he said.
“The style can be adapted to portray long summer drinks during a heat wave.
“Ideally in summer, carbonated soft drinks should be served poured over a glass filled with ice, while bottled water should be chilled to perfection and served with a slice of lemon or lime.”
Sarah Brooks, marketing director at Purity Soft Drinks, the firm behind blended botanical juice brand Firefly, agreed that customers “drink with their eyes” and suggested operators “work with the right suppliers who understand the importance of adding theatre to their drinks”.
While the Scottish summer has been pretty warm so far, if occasionally a bit wet, Brooks reckons this year’s diet of major sporting events – from the final stages of Euro 2016 to the Rio Olympics – “present an enormous opportunity to maximise soft drinks sales”, especially when the weather is just right.
Russell Kirkham of Britvic, the firm behind Pepsi, J2O and Robinsons Fruit Shoot, agreed that this summer presents a big soft drinks opportunity, and he encouraged operators to prepare in advance for busier trading days.
“Ensure you reinforce your teams with extra bar staff, glass collectors and kitchen staff to keep queue time to a minimum during busy periods and sustain the level of service your customers expect,” said Kirkham.
The Britvic marketing manager added that operators should promote their outlet, both at street level and online, to further add to their till receipts.
“Encourage consumers into your outlet over others using A-boards outside your venue promoting seasonal offers and enticing drinkers through the door with popular summer drinks to quench their thirst in rising temperatures,” he said.
“You should also be using your social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) to remind customers of any outdoor space or summer specials you are running.”