A healthy start to 2022

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The new year brings new opportunities to grow sales, as shoppers look to right the wrongs of an overindulgent festive season by eating and drinking more healthily.

by Findlay Stein


It’s that time again when everyone tries to put the excesses of the festive season behind them and start the new year with a clean slate. People are bursting with good intentions – signing up for Dry January and Veganuary left, right and centre, while gyms see a brisk upturn in business.

This, of course, presents a great opportunity for retailers as shoppers seek out products to match their new healthier lifestyles.

With 6.5 million people taking part in the aforementioned Dry January [IGD Shoppervista], it’s no surprise that bottled water sales now see their second biggest peak after summer [IGD Shoppervista]. However, almost half of Brits dislike drinking plain water and say they prefer flavoured drinks [dunnhumby Health in 2021]. This leads to a massive incremental opportunity for retailers, where shoppers are looking for lower calorie soft drinks that don’t compromise on taste and give them a fruity flavour hit.

One product that ticks all these boxes is Rubicon Spring, which Adrian Troy, Marketing Director at brand owner Barr Soft Drinks, describes as “the high taste, low calorie alternative that shoppers are looking for – a bridge between the healthiness of water and the taste of carbonated fruit drinks.”

Currently the No.1  flavoured sparkling water [IRI], bought by 1.6 million shoppers and bringing +52% more shoppers into the range over the last year [Kantar WPO], Rubicon Spring combines sparkling spring water and fruit juice, with only 15 calories or less per bottle.

“It’s been a strong year for Rubicon Spring,” says Troy. “With the 500ml range shown strong recovery as on-the-go sales picked back up, with a +66% increase in Drink Now sales and now growing at +38% since restrictions have eased [IRI]. However, we also saw a phenomenal +139% increase in Take Home over the last year, as more shoppers enjoyed at home.”

Earlier this year, Barr Soft Drinks launched Rubicon Spring Pineapple Passion, targeting shoppers at the water fixture, who are looking for an exciting new flavour. Where stocked, this 500ml SKU has already grown to be the third best-selling flavour in the range, behind Black Cherry & Raspberry and Orange & Mango  [IRI].

Rubicon Spring will benefit from a burst of social media activity running throughout January, in partnership with popular health and fitness Instagram influencers, building on the brand’s previous ‘No Added Boring’ campaign.

Troy adds: “Stocking the full range of Rubicon Spring with the right space and visibility, utilising exciting POS, will ensure that retailers maximise the sales opportunities created from shoppers trying to kickstart the New Year with a healthier lifestyle.”

Another option comes from Britvic’s Aqua Libra brand, which offers a healthier alternative to full/low/no sugar drinks and is more flavoursome than plain water.

Aqua Libra contains zero-sugar, zero-calories, is free from sweeteners and artificial ingredients, and is also suitable for vegans. Following on from a re-brand last year, Britvic has added a new Raspberry & Blackcurrant variant to the range, to offer a further breadth of flavour choice to health-conscious shoppers.

Sticking with fizz

However not everyone on a health kick wants to give up their favourite fizzy drinks, as Troy explains: “Our research shows us that many carbonates shoppers are looking to reduce their sugar and calorie intake, so it’s really important for retailers to stock a range of choices in flavour and format.”

Barr’s flagship Irn-Bru brand’s zero sugar Xtra variant delivered more than £20m worth of sales last year [AG Barr sales data] and allows retailers to offer a full flavour option for those looking to cut their sugar intake.

Phil Sanders, Out of Home Commercial Director at Britvic, agrees that offering a broad range is crucial at this time of year. “It’s vital to cater to those looking for low and no sugar alternatives, with products such as Tango Sugar Free and Pepsi MAX,” he says.

“Pepsi MAX boasts an enviable flavour portfolio, including Pepsi MAX Raspberry, Pepsi MAX Cherry and Pepsi MAX Ginger, all of which are available in a range of formats that suit a variety of occasions and customer needs. This year Tango Sugar Free also introduced a Dark Berry flavour to the popular sugar free range, bringing a mouth-watering taste of sweet, tangy raspberries and rich blackberries, ensuring shoppers don’t have to compromise on taste when choosing a healthier option.”

Healthier snacking

Health-conscious consumers needn’t cut corners on taste in the healthier snacking category either. Gone are the days of cardboard-tasting products, as manufacturers respond to growing demand for more permissible options. This trend has been fuelled in part by the coronavirus pandemic, with 80% of consumers saying they will make greater attempts to stay healthier due to Covid-19 [FMCG Gurus].

As a result, healthier snack bars are forecast to grow 14% over the next three years [Euromonitor Snacking Forecast].

Cereal bar brand Nature Valley offers added health benefits through its core platforms Nature Valley Crunchy, made with 100% wholegrain oats and Nature Valley Protein, which is high in protein and fibre. Those key ranges are major contributors to the brand’s growth at +6.2% vs LY to £57.6m [Neilsen].

Alongside healthier snacking, the weight management snacks category also in growth, now valued at £120.7m [Neilsen]. January is a key month for the category, as consumers who have put on a few extra pounds over Christmas now try to shed them.

Fibre One, from General Milles, is now the third-biggest brand in the category, and a significant contributor to growth at +£6.5m [Neilsen]. Known for its 90-calorie brownie and square range, General Mills reduced its sugar content by 30% last year, without compromising on taste.

KP Snacks is also reporting healthy sales growth on the back of healthier snacking. Its popchips core range is worth £38m RSV and is growing in value at +22.6% [Neilsen Scantrack]. Coming in at under 100 calories per serving, suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and with a third less fat than the market leader, popchips provides a more permissible snack option without compromising on big flavour.

“At KP Snacks, our recent NPD has focussed on ‘better for you’ ingredients but with big tasting flavour cues that inspire consumers and add something totally new to the healthy snacking segment,” says Matt Collins, Trading Director at KP Snacks.

“One of our newest product launches is popchips Veg Vibes, a light and crunchy new snack made of chickpea, rice and sweet potato combined with deeply satisfying flavours that consumers don’t usually see in vegetable based crisps. The range launched in Sriracha and Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar, guaranteed to meet the bold flavour notes and lasting after tastes that shoppers are looking for.”

Britvic’s top tips for healthier January sales
  • Back the best sellers, such as 7UP Free, Tango Sugar Free and Pepsi MAX with the potential to drive scale;
  • Cater for all need states with a variety of different pack formats for both on-the-go and at-home occasions;
  • Showcase NPD – new products should be given extra visibility to encourage customers to try something different. Include POS to highlight the fact that it is a new addition;
  • Cross-category merchandising – create dedicated fixtures to locate complementary products together, to encourage cross-category purchases and increase basket spend. For example, site single serve soft drink formats with healthier snacks and salads for meal deal occasions;
  • Use social media as a tool to promote any offers you are running in-store, this will encourage customers to come in and check them out, even picking up other items along the way.