Put some sparkle into soft drinks

It won’t all be about alcoholic serves this summer, reckon brand owners


SCOTTISH pub and bar customers have waited a long time for a sip of a cold pint in a pub, but that doesn’t mean this summer is going to be all about alcohol in the licensed trade.

While beer, wine and spirits are bound to be big sellers throughout the summer and beyond, brand owners argued that there is also likely to be a spike in soft drinks sales as the trade reopens.

Severine Hemms, of Nestlé Waters, parent company of San Pellegrino, said she expects trends to follow those of last summer.

“During the summer of 2020, when venues reopened, soft drinks were the most-consumed drinks,” said Hemms.

“It is therefore an essential category to consider as we move into the summer months of 2021, and outlets are allowed to open.

“There has been a particular increase in demand for premium soft drinks, especially evident in carbonated drinks.”

Hemms added that, with the initial lockdown resulting in a spike in alcohol consumption, many consumers resolved to drink less in 2021.

While this could result in greater demand for soft drinks throughout the summer, it also reinforces the importance of getting a soft drinks range just right.

“Getting your ranging right, and installing the brands that your customers want, is an ongoing challenge for operators, with the wants and needs of consumers constantly evolving,” said Neil Macdonald, regional manager at Vimto Out of Home.

“With data showing that 29% of consumers are consuming less alcohol than a year ago, nailing the soft drinks range is becoming increasingly important to attracting and retaining custom.”

Food and drinks trends established pre-COVID are likely to return in the months ahead, reckoned drinks companies.

“Prior to COVID, 69% of soft drinks sales were in colas, lemonade and mixers, so this is a sensible place to start,” said Paul Robertson, head of on-premise at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP).

“As well as having the right products behind the bar, visibility is key to helping drive sales, and to communicating the quality of the experience that’s on offer.”

Quality is expected to be high on the agenda across the board.

Andrew Ronald, UK general manager at Fever-Tree, said: “The pandemic has accelerated the trends that we identified at the very beginning, namely a move towards premiumisation and a focus on provenance.

“We’ve seen that quality has broad appeal – people are wanting to drink better quality drinks – be it alcoholic or soft.

“The desire for premium experiences and products with a focus on provenance and craft ingredients isn’t going anywhere.”

Hemms, of Nestlé Waters, agreed.

Quoting figures from Mintel, she said 67% of consumers are willing to pay more for food or drink that’s difficult to make at home. This is even more pronounced in younger age groups, with 78% of 16 to 34 year olds prepared to pay more for those products.

“We know that lockdown restrictions have meant people have been unable to enjoy their usual trips to pubs, restaurants or bars,” said Hemms.

“As a result, when consumers have purchased takeaway or ordered deliveries, they commonly upgrade their usual order and spend a little extra to make their mealtime special.

“Consumers want to indulge when given the opportunity, and this is expected to continue, or be of even more importance, now that outlets are reopening, as 60% of people plan to treat themselves when they go out to eat and drink.

“Consumers will look to premium food and drinks options to celebrate with loved ones, and make up for lost time.”

For food outlets, a range of soft drinks that pairs well with an outlet’s menu was said to be a must, with  Macdonald at Vimto Out of Home saying that pairing soft drinks with dishes “presents the perfect opportunity to elevate food and drink occasions”.

There’s also the chance to get creative with an outlet’s soft drinks range, said Ronald at Fever-Tree.

He encouraged operators to consider more adventurous alcohol-free serves.

“Just because a drink doesn’t contain alcohol, it doesn’t mean the drinks options should be seen as any less exciting,” said Ronald.

“Create non-alcoholic cocktails using premium mixers, and alcohol-free spirits can be a great alternative.

“Use the same glassware and experiment with garnishes to create the theatre and excitement thus allowing everyone to enjoy a premium drinking experience.”