Healthy boost for soft sales

Range and perfect serve key to maximise opportunity

Operators should ensure they stock a broad range of soft drinks covering all bases.

HEALTH and wellbeing are important drivers for many consumers when it comes to choosing what to drink.

And whether people are looking to moderate their alcohol consumption or abstain altogether, the demand for alternatives to alcohol in bars and restaurants is said to be high – and growing.

Of course, low and no-alcohol products have seen an uplift in line with that trend.
And soft drinks are also said to be benefitting.

Mike Buckland, marketing controller at Highland Spring Group, said demand for soft drinks in bars and restaurants “shows no sign of slowing”.

“Low and no-alcohol, along with products that contain little or no sugar, continue to be a big driver with customers and there is a range of products that meets the needs of health-conscious consumers,” he said.

“Operators should consider offering soft drinks that can be consumed on their own or as part of a mocktail, promoting healthy and refreshing alternatives to traditional soft drinks and alcohol.

“Highland Spring’s flavoured sparkling cans are perfect for those customers looking for products with health and wellbeing in mind. At under 35 calories per can, they are also a fantastic choice for those looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle and try to avoid traditional soft drinks as all three flavours – Blackberry, Plum & Hibiscus, Pear & Elderflower and Rhubarb & Ginger – contain no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. The products are also ideal for the new wave of low and no-alcohol drinkers that we’re seeing.”

It’s a trend that was echoed by James Nichols, commercial controller at Vimto Out Of Home, who said that consumers who are seeking alternatives to alcoholic drinks are looking to “well-known brands and refreshing flavours as well as lower sugar options to fit in with their healthier choices”.

Stocking a broad range of soft drinks is, therefore, vital in order to maximise the opportunity, he said.

“It’s also clear that fridge space is becoming a premium, as venues widen their soft drinks offering,” said Nichols.

“We find that operators benefit from our post mix solutions, which provide customers with a range of top quality brands, and free up additional space on shelf and in fridges to stock other packaged products. For instance, just one of our bag-in-box units is able to hold the same volume as 182 330ml cans.

“Our post mix dispense guns enable operators to offer up to eight different brands on one gun, twice the average number. This means operators can offer customers a wide choice without compromising on fridge space, which is at a premium particularly during the summer months.

“Draught soft drinks are one of the highest margin categories and so it is particularly important to ensure your post mix drinks are of the highest quality, using a reputable provider and quality brands, which are more likely to drive repeat purchase and boost profitability.”

The importance of a broad range and delivering quality serves was underlined by Roberta Neave, Star Pubs & Bars category buying manager for soft drinks.

“A great soft drinks range is more important than ever, and for broader reasons than I think people first realise,” said Neave.

“It’s not just about more extreme reasons such as total abstinence or ‘drink driving’; it’s about moderation, health, work conscientiousness and, for many, feeling more present with their fellow pub-goers.

“Beer has stolen the crown with regard to the ‘no and low’ category, however soft drinks have a big role to play as well if brand owners and operators can market them in an appealing way.

“Successful execution in outlet is key. Think proper glassware (potentially with a stem), an interesting garnish, as well as clear point-of-sale to remind customers there is a non-alcoholic option that doesn’t feel like a compromise.”

Buckland at Highland Spring underlined the importance of delivering quality soft drinks serves.

“Operators should ensure they have a wide and varied soft drinks offering to cater to different tastes and maximise potential sales opportunities,” he said.

“Including an assortment of traditional classic soft drinks, along with a variety of new, exciting products should be key.

“Creating a perfect serve can impress customers, along with providing consistency in service.

“It also provides the opportunity to showcase key flavours within the product. Creating a perfect serve is an important step in elevating a product and maximising sales.

“Operators should be mindful that a perfect serve isn’t purely about the drink itself, it’s about the full experience that customers can get from visiting a bar or restaurant – from glassware to garnishes.”