Coca-Cola plans to focus on pubs and bars as sugar tax approaches
AS soft drinks firms gear up for the first summer of the sugar tax, which comes into effect on April 6, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has pledged to stay proactive as it looks to strengthen its relationship with the on-trade.
Speaking at a recent press event in London, Paul Grace, field sales director at CCEP, announced plans to expand the company’s presence in licensed venues – with a focus on the perfect serve and the Schweppes brand.
He said: “The big area still to tackle is the perfect serve. We still need to raise expectations for consumers when they walk into any hospitality environment and it really isn’t tricky.
“The cost of ingredients for a badly served Coke is the same as the cost of ingredients for a well-served Coke and that’s where outlets can really add value by putting on a bit of specialness.”
Grace, whose role makes him responsible for out of home sales across CCEP’s portfolio, said the continued development of a perfect serve mystery shopping programme should help bars deliver Coca-Cola drinks faultlessly.
“We did about 3500 of these visits last year and we’re planning on doing more than 20,000 visits in 2018 to out of home venues,” he said.
“So if our mystery shoppers go into an outlet and are served Coke in the right way, the operator gets an instant reward – such as an Amazon voucher.
“We will continue to work on the serve, the choice and innovate as well. That means getting closer to the trade and operators and really helping them with things like serving suggestions, upskilling and learning from great mixologists about how to pair our beverages.”
A recent example of innovation in the licensed trade was last year’s launch of premium mixer range Schweppes 1783, which was created in partnership with bartenders.
Grace said: “If you have a brand that’s as old as Schweppes, it’s like an old painting, the frame sometimes needs regilding and a bit of a polish and that’s what we did with Schweppes.
“There has always been a huge amount of love in the trade for Schweppes and we had to remind people of that – the introduction of our new 1783 range was part of that.
“Speaking personally, from the team that calls upon independent outlets every single day, we are growing our stockists of 1783 impressively and gaining great traction; spirit mixer drinks are in very good shape.”
And with the sugar tax due to hit soft drinks with a sugar content of 5g per 100ml and more in just over two weeks time, Grace said CCEP is well-placed to deal with the levy.
He said: “We’re still part of this journey to reduce sugar, which we started over 30 years ago with Diet Coke and have been on that journey ever since.
“The details of the sugar tax can sound incredibly complicated until you learn than 95% of our portfolio is tax exempt.
“The only three brands that will be affected by the Soft Drinks Industry Levy will be Coca-Cola Classic, Monster Energy Original and Schweppes 1783.
We’re still on this journey to reduce sugar, which we started over 30 years ago with Diet Coke.
“We’re not going to reformulate Coca-Cola Classic and with Schweppes 1783 [Tonic Water] – it has 8.9g of sugar because we feel it gives the drink an amazing taste which mixes with spirits really well.
“Our advice to operators is to offer choice to your customers; so have Coca-Cola Classic alongside Zero Sugar as well as having Schweppes 1783 [Tonic Water] beside Schweppes Tonic Water, which is tax exempt.”
As summer approaches so too does this year’s World Cup in Russia.
Coca-Cola has had stadium advertising at every World Cup going back to 1950 and has been an official sponsor of the tournament since Argentina 1978.
This year, in particular, presents a “great opportunity to sell soft drinks” due to more matches and friendlier kick-off times, according to Grace.
He said: “The World Cup is always a big deal for us; the great thing about this year is that it’s expanded to 32 teams and the 1pm, 4pm and early evening kick-offs mean it’s great if you’re a football fan but also if you’re an operator of a pub or bar.
“If you’re in a bar, use that to drive traffic and think about those kick-off times in the middle of the day.
“You don’t have to do much to capitalise on it from a soft drinks perspective; get a great range, make sure it’s served properly and tell people when the games are on.
“The World Cup sells itself.”