Don’t go soft on quality

Glassware and garnishes just as important for soft drinks

Quality is just as important a consideration for soft drinks as it is for alcoholic beverages.

AFTER spending months at home during the COVID-19 lockdowns, consumers craved the things they hadn’t been able to recreate themselves.

And that – coupled with a desire to ‘treat themselves’ when they were allowed back to pubs and restaurants – has been good for all drinks categories, including soft drinks and mixers.

Whether it’s a premium soft drink serve with fresh fruit garnish, a mocktail or a perfectly-served spirit and mixer – quality is king when it comes to soft drinks and mixers if operators are to reap the benefits.

Severine Hemms, of Sanpellegrino parent company Nestlé Waters, said premium, flavoured carbonates offer a “lucrative opportunity” for venues.

“With consumers looking towards hospitality to lift their spirits now restrictions are easing, the growth of flavoured carbonated drinks will be particularly important for operators to capitalise upon,” said Hemms.

“The eating-out market has seen a shift towards premiumisation, with 67% of consumers paying more for food or drink that’s difficult to make at home, rising to 78% amongst 16 to 34 year olds.

“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.”

Growing consumer demand for premium products and serves was underlined by Andrew Ronald, UK general manager at Fever-Tree, who said “people are wanting to drink better quality drinks – be it alcoholic or soft”.

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

“Creating 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.”
Paul Robertson, head of on-premise at Coca-Cola European Partners, highlighted the importance of delivering the perfect, premium serve to customers.

“Consumers are drinking less alcohol but drinking better, with over half saying they would prefer a smaller quantity of a premium spirit to a larger quantity of a standard one,” he said.
“As a result, premium mixers are a key driver of growth as consumers look to treat themselves with more indulgent drinks choices.

“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.

“We’ll be helping operators to execute the perfect serve, using glassware and garnishes to give people something special that they can’t recreate at home.”

Agreeing that consumers are “seeking experiences they haven’t been able to enjoy at home over the past year”, Neil Macdonald, regional manager at Vimto Out of Home, said people are likely to have a “renewed appetite for trying something new”.

“Identifying fast-moving trends, and capitalising on them, is crucial for range innovation,” said Macdonald.

“Pink lemonade has increased in popularity over the past year, presenting a great opportunity for operators to tap into this trend by adding this variant.

“It’s vital that operators take full advantage of this surging trend and stock products that are proven to be of interest to consumers.

“Our newly launched Pink Lemonade variant is now available as part of our post-mix range, alongside a range of other great flavours. Both are staples to any post-mix range and can be used as mixers for summer serves to mix up your drinks offering.”

Ensuring new products are part of a venue’s range was also advocated by Mike Buckland, marketing controller at Highland Spring, who said health is becoming an increasingly important consideration for consumers.

“One trend that the pandemic has shown is that consumers are increasingly looking for healthier alternatives and ways they can improve their health,” he said.

“Operators must ensure their soft drink choices are in line with this trend in order to meet consumer demand.

“Bottled water, particularly sparkling water, is a perfect summer alternative for those consumers that are looking for healthy hydration during their visit to an on-trade premise, either with a food order or as a mixer for their choice of alcoholic drink.”