An extra £170 million is the size of the soft drinks prize

SALES of soft drinks have surged by 60.3% in the UK’s pubs, clubs and licensed venues, with volumes up 53.2%.

But according to Britvic’s Soft Drinks Review 2023, the potential is there for operators to deliver a further sales boost of up to £170m by encouraging just 10% consumers to trade up from tap water to a soft drink.

Britvic’s statistics suggest that soft drinks are having a ‘renaissance’ within the channel, not least because one in three adults say that they now rarely or never drink alcohol. At this pivotal moment, Britvic suggests,the licensed trade needs to rethink its drinks offering in order to stay ahead of the game.

“As consumers curb their alcohol consumption, particularly millennials and Generation Z, soft drinks are well and truly in the limelight,” said GB commercial director for hospitality at Britvic, Dino Labbate.

“Soft drinks have obviously always been crucial to the licensed sector, accounting for 27% of volume and 17% of value during last year. But, this year our Soft Drinks Review really highlights the size of the prize available to operators who are able to adapt to keep pace with consumers’ changing needs.

“We’re expecting low and no alcohol on-trade volumes to grow by a huge 48% to 117 million litres by 2027, with higher average prices pushing value sales up by 69% to £432m.”

He continued: “That’s why we’re challenging ourselves and licensed venues to rethink soft drinks. Our Soft Drinks Review shows that consumers want compelling non-alcoholic drinks options with real wow factor – as good as, if not better than, the hard stuff. We want operators to take stock this year, rethink your range, how you’re serving it and what you’re pairing it with.”

Operators should be considering sophisticated in-house mocktails and exciting new flavours, he suggested. While there will always be an important place for Pepsi MAX and 7UP Zero at the bar, guests were on the hunt for elevated experiences, and soft drinks can offer ‘so much more’.

Dino continued: “In the current climate, consumers need more reasons than ever to go out and spend; this explains some of the new trends we’re seeing. For example, 88% of consumers say they want bars and pubs to provide them with an experience they can’t get at home.

“As a result, we’re seeing venues really up their game by developing experiences that can’t be recreated at home. Operators who can follow suit and rise to the challenge will reap the rewards.

Top tips to help licensed operators adapt their non-alcoholic drinks offerings:

  • Provide an elevated soft drinks selection that rivals the alcoholic options on offer, think elegant glassware with ice, beautifully presented with garnishes;
  • Consider pairing food with premium soft drinks, such as J2O, that offer greater depth of flavour – 79% of food consumed out of home in Britain is served with a soft drink;
  • Encourage drinkers to trade up – Britvic estimatesthat 10% of tap water drinkers trading up from water to soft drinks would create a £170m sales boost;
  • Spirits and mixers are highly profitable, offering an average margin per typical outlet of more than 80%. Licensed operators should stock up on premium mixers to push those margins higher.