THERE’S no denying the shift in consumer attitude towards soft drinks in recent years.
No longer viewed as simply a mixer or an accompaniment to a meal, soft drinks are now firmly established as a category in their own right; and it’s those with local and premium credentials that are in highest demand.
That was the message from Scottish soft drinks firms, which told SLTN that operators can cash in on this trend by stocking a varied range of locally- produced drinks alongside the classics.
Adrian Troy, marketing director for Irn-Bru owner Barr Soft Drinks, said: “As consumer tastes have changed, provenance has risen to the top of the agenda – with many consumers looking for products with strong roots and a sense of heritage and tradition.”
Echoing this view, Claire Rennie of craft soda firm, Summerhouse Drinks, said there “is an increasing consumer demand for premium Scottish soft drinks, [which is] driven by tourists and local consumers”.
Therefore, it can pay off to stock local brands – and, according to Niall Deveney of wholesaler Dunns, operators that do so can capitalise on customers’ loyalty to all things local.
“Scottish consumers can be very, very loyal to homegrown brands and products,” he said.
“Traditional flavours like cola and lemonade remain popular, but mixers and tonics are doing particularly well as consumers look for a premium serve to match premium spirits.
“Healthier and low-calorie options are also in demand, as people are taking a keener interest in what they consume, whilst drinks with natural or interesting ingredients have captured imaginations too, as consumers seek out ‘small-batch’ products.”
As consumer tastes have changed, provenance has risen to the top of the agenda.
Carol Saunders, head of customer marketing for Highland Spring Group, believes that health and provenance also go hand in hand in Scotland’s on-trade – therefore presenting an opportunity to grow the Scottish soft and mixer category further.
“Evidence suggests that Scottish provenance is particularly important to Scottish consumers,” she said.
“Operators must not just see water as a thirst quencher for customers. As the only mixer with no calories, no sugar, no preservatives and no additives, naturally-sourced sparkling water is a perfect alternative to sugary mixers for health conscious consumers.
Beyond health, when it comes to deciding which brands to stock, Claire Rennie of Summerhouse Drinks reckons craft Scottish soft drinks “can be treated in a similar way to Scottish craft beer”.
“There may be a couple of permanent lines but there is a great opportunity for seasonal offerings – for example our Hint O’ Mint Lemonade in summer and our Winter Spice for the festive season.”
Troy of Barr Soft Drinks said publicans can’t go wrong with a well-rounded selection.
“Offer a good range of regular, low and no-sugar options – in both still and sparkling formats – with both unique and traditional flavours to cater to a range of consumer needs,” said Troy.
“Display your soft drinks offering prominently so that customers can see the full range – and always include soft drinks on any menus.”
Ultimately, however, Troy advised operators to keep in mind that “one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to soft drinks, so make sure you tailor your [soft drinks] offering accordingly for your customer base”.