Making sense of soft drinks

drinking soft drink

With a slew of new soft drinks product launches in recent months it looks like retailers will need infinitely expandable chillers to fit them all in – so it’s time to take a long, hard look at soft drinks to decide which products merit some space this summer.

It’s the eternal challenge in the soft drinks category: dozens of new products every year, all promising to be the next big thing, and only a limited amount of chiller space to fit them all into. The last six months or so have been particularly busy for the major manufacturers with all the big players unveiling interesting new ranges – so where should retailers look when committing their precious chilled space this summer?

“Scotland’s £926m [IRI, Feb 2019] soft drinks category continues to be one of the most profitable categories for retailers during the summer months and is the second-highest bought category in Scottish convenience after newspapers [HIM 2017],” says Adrian Troy, Marketing Director at Barr Soft Drinks.

Troy points out the obvious when he says that “summer is key to the entire soft drinks market and retailers need to ensure that their fixture is balanced to reflect seasonal category uplifts in order to generate maximum profits”.

To put that into context, from June to August shoppers purchase 19% more soft drinks than any other time of the year, with water, fruit drinks and other flavoured carbonates seeing the most benefit [IRI 2018].

Undoubtedly the key trend that retailers need to be on top of this summer is growing shopper demand for mid, low and no-sugar soft drinks – although don’t forget that the overriding reasons why consumers choose a soft drink have remained constant: great taste, flavour choice and the right pack formats.

So what’s on offer from some of the key manufacturers that can help you maximise footfall, sales and profits this summer?

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP)

  • Coca-Cola Energy is the first energy drink released under the Coca-Cola brand and is available with or without sugar, helping retailers to meet the different demands of an increasingly health-conscious audience. Both variants come in 250ml cans.
  • CCEP has expanded its Fanta Zero range with the launch of Fanta Grape Zero. The product is made with natural flavours and is Soft Drinks Tax-exempt. It is available in a 330ml can and a 500ml PET bottle for instant consumption occasions, and a 4 x 330ml can multipack and a 2-ltr PET bottle for take home.
  • Monster Ultra Blue is the latest addition to the Monster range. A sparkling, citrus and berry, low calorie energy drink, the new variant will help retailers to maximise on the demand for low calorie, flavoured energy drinks, which are in 59% value growth and the fastest growing segment in energy.
  • The RTD coffee sector is predicted to more than double over the next 10 years which is why CCEP launched its first range of products under the Espresso Monster sub-brand. Available in a premium ‘touch ink’ black 250ml can, the product is a blend of real brewed coffee and Monster energy that was designed to appeal to coffee lovers and energy drink fans alike. It is available in two variants: Espresso & Milk and Vanilla Espresso supported throughout 2019 by a £1m consumer advertising campaign.

Barr Soft Drinks

  • Water is a key category, showing the biggest uplift at +41% [IRI 2018]. Barr’s advises retailers to offer trusted, quality brands such as Strathmore, but also consider the growing number of consumers who are looking for healthier options but are not prepared to compromise on taste. Rubicon Spring, a full-tasting product with 15 calories or less, is currently growing at 49% in Scotland [IRI, Feb 2019].
  • Fruit drinks is the second biggest growth area in the summer, growing at +24%. Shoppers are now widely travelled and growing consumer demand for great-tasting exotic flavours provides opportunities. Rubicon is the UK’s No.1 exotic juice drink brand, currently growing at 25% in Scotland [IRI, Feb 2019].
  • Flavoured carbonates account for over one in five soft drinks products sold, highlighting the importance of Irn-Bru’s role in-store. The brand is currently benefitting from a new £6m campaign urging shoppers to ‘Get some Irn in you’.
  • Barr Soft Drinks is also advising retailers about the importance of offering shoppers all three variants of Irn-Bru prominently to attract shoppers to the fixture: sugar-free, Xtra and original.
  • New Irn-Bru Energy is also set to make a stir when it formally launches next month.


  • Britvic launched Robinsons Fruit Creations earlier this year in the convenience channel following the product’s success within the grocery sector. PMPs are exclusively available at £1.99 per 1-litre bottle.
  • The company has also recently launched a new addition to its Pepsi Max range with a raspberry flavour joining the line-up.
  • The infused sparkling water brand Aqua Libra range has been boosted with the addition of a new flavour and a new pack design. Aqua Libra Cucumber, Mint & Lime appeals to consumers’ changing tastes and habits.
  • Britvic is investing in its Tango brand with the introduction of three new sugar free flavours, a packaging re-design and a £2.2m marketing investment which sees the brand back on TV for the first time in four years. The new flavours include Tropical, Strawberry & Watermelon and Orange sugar free.
  • Robinsons is leveraging its Wimbledon links with a new on-pack promotion across its Refresh’d range. Shoppers have the chance to win Wimbledon experiences – from branded towels to VIP tickets to a tennis match during the tournament. Robinsons is also running a £3m campaign over the summer months, which includes TV activity.
Britvic’s top tips
  • Consider your location: are you near or en-route to a large, popular festival? If so, make sure you are well prepared for this. Multipacks are great a great way to cash in.
  • Summer holidays: school holidays mean parents will be looking for options for them whilst out and about. A wide variety on offer for the kids to choose from will boost sales.
  • Social media: it’s the perfect tool to let the community know what offers you are running in-store or what new products you may be stocking. Create a BBQ or picnic bundle deal and take a picture of it to post on Twitter to tempt shoppers in.
  • Price-marked packs: customers love a good deal and PMPs make your customers feel as though they are getting value for money.

Red Bull

  • With a 28.8% value share, Red Bull is the number one sports and energy brand in Scotland, which is the fastest growing region in the UK for the brand, growing +21.4% since last year. Additionally, Red Bull Sugarfree is the leading low-calorie energy SKU in Scotland.
  • Tapping into the growing market for flavoured energy, one of the latest innovations for the brand is Red Bull Coconut Berry Edition, which launched in February. This introduction aims to remove one of the key barriers of trial in energy drinks – taste. The launch offers the energy boost of Red Bull with the flavour of coconut and is available in both Energy and Sugarfree variants (250ml), priced respectively at £1.29 and £1.25 per can.
  • Finally, Red Bull’s launch of its Organics range taps into the consumer demand for organically certified food and drink products. 100% natural and organically certified, Organics by Red Bull, which includes Simply Cola, Ginger Ale, Tonic Water and Bitter Lemon, not only appeals to existing consumers but also to new shoppers who are looking for an alternative within the soft drink category.

Lucozade Ribena Suntory

  • The latest innovation from Ribena sees the brand move into the enhanced and flavoured water category for the first time ever. New Ribena Frusion aims to tap into a growing consumer focus on ‘enjoyable wellness’ – an opportunity worth £145m. The brand has also recently unveiled a £6.2m campaign to drive awareness and tap into its heritage as the master crafter of blackcurrants.
  • Lucozade Energy has launched a new flavour: Watermelon & Strawberry Cooler, inspired by refreshing and summery iced fruit coolers, making it ideal for the summer season. This launch will benefit from a new £10m Lucozade Energy marketing campaign.