Health and wellbeing key to adult soft drinks growth

Purdey's Rejuvenate

Healthier soft drinks are increasingly important to more and more shoppers, something that’s particularly important in the adult soft drinks sector.


While alcohol sales have witnessed an unsurprising boom under lockdown, the long-term trend towards growth in the alcohol alternative categories continues to gather pace. Low and no alcohol products are performing solidly, if unspectacularly, and the adult soft drinks category (including mixers) is also driving sales across Scotland.

A key driver behind this, according to Britvic’s latest extensive Soft Drinks Review, is health and wellbeing. In fact, Britvic has identified the opportunity for every convenience retailer to add a very precise £812 to their annual turnover through functional wellness drinks.

Unsurprisingly after an 18 month health pandemic, consumers are more focused on health and wellbeing than ever, with almost half of people (47%) agreeing they will eat more foods to support their immune systems going forward [Nielsen]. Additionally, one in five people have begun taking vitamins since the start of the first lockdown, with 66% of consumers stating ‘added ingredients to make it healthier’ as important vs 60% pre-Covid and 27% want to reduce sugar [IGD ShopperVista, Sep 2020].

Step forward the adult soft drink.

Britvic obviously views this as an excellent growth opportunity for its Purdey’s brand. Phil Sanders, Out of Home Commercial Director at Britvic, comments: “It’s vital that retailers are adapting their ranges accordingly to take advantage of this shift in consumer demand. Purdey’s, the UK’s leading sparkling vitality brand, is perfectly placed to lead the wellness soft drinks category. Made with naturally sourced ingredients – real fruit juice, boosted by botanicals and energising B vitamins – it offers a no added sugar energy lift, something we know shoppers are on the lookout for.

“After the challenges retailers have faced in the past year, we’re dedicated to support our customers as they navigate changing shopper needs, and that includes looking ahead and making them aware of growing soft drink trends. Shoppers are willing to pay more than double the average price for premium soft drinks with added benefits than a soft drink or 34% more [Nielsen, Jan 2021] than the average single serve, which is already priced at a premium.”

The Britvic Soft Drinks Review also identified three key soft drink needs that emerged last year, which impact upon the adult soft drinks category: ‘energy boost’, ‘in-home refreshment and socialising’ and ‘a new stance of hydration’.

Sanders concludes: “As they adjusted to the ‘new normal’, consumers sought ‘pick me ups’ and stimulants, the leading soft drinks category in convenience, was well placed to benefit. As the channel’s biggest success story, stimulants grew in both take home and on-the-go, bucking the single serve trend. Outgrowing all other soft drinks combined, the segment attracted shoppers to buy more volume per trip at a higher price, performing especially well in symbols and forecourts.”

Carbonates and mixers also outperformed soft drinks overall, playing a key role in refreshment and socialising at home. Cola was the largest contributor to carbonates’ growth in convenience, adding £20.5m to channel sales. Pepsi MAX, the No. 1 sugar free cola in convenience, grew £7.8m and became the third biggest sub-brand in the convenience market in 2020. Traditional mixers were convenience’s fastest-growing category, up +47.8%, followed by lemonade (+26%). Squash was the in-home hydration hero as consumers turned to the tap, accelerating +21.1% (+£8.2m). Robinsons was 2020’s leading squash brand and biggest growth contributor, through its single concentrate and double concentrate ranges and Fruit Creations.

Plain water and flavoured hydration – such as juice drinks, ice tea and water plus – had a more difficult 2020, traditionally strong in on-the-go formats and transient channels and locations like high street and travel, both hit hard by the pandemic.

Britvic’s Steps to Soft Drinks Success
  • Protect loyalty in take home – Take home soft drinks shoppers are hugely valuable to convenience versus an average shopper, spending £894 a year versus £446 on average, with spend growing by £58 in 2020 [Kantar, Dec 2020]. Retailers must work to retain long-term loyalty, offering good value versus competitor channels on these formats.
  • Recover and reset food-to-go sales – with soft drinks as the leading category bought on food-to-go missions, it is well placed to support retailers as they recover and reset sales by having the right range to meet new consumer needs.
  • Hero functional wellness to drive more value per drink – provide a range of great-tasting drinks for consumers to manage their health, whether that be sugar free, low calorie or natural options, or through functional wellness drinks with added benefits that offer a chance for retailers to drive up the cost per drink.