Maximise your opportunities in adult soft drinks

The majority of licensees would admit to having suffered from the effects of the dry January trend, demonstrating the need for publicans to look more closely at how they can maximise the opportunities in adult soft drinks. Suzanne Callander reports.

Many pub and bar customers are still being left disappointed with the adult soft drink selection. While 48% of consumers say they typically order soft drinks when visiting a pub or bar, 60% of consumers still perceive the soft drink range on offer as being boring and predictable.

Licensees need to stock a more interesting range of soft drinks – such as premium bottled drinks – to excite the increasing number of non alcohol-drinking customers.

According to a Consumer Insights report from Carlsberg UK, more consumers are engaging in non-alcoholic occasions, especially during the week with weekly alcohol occasions falling by 22% since 2001 across all age ranges. Many drinkers are looking to moderate their alcohol intake for health and financial reasons, and the recently revised Government safe drinking guidelines have further encouraged this trend.

There is also an increasing number of teetotallers. In 2013 the ‘Adult Drinking Habits in Great Britain’ report from the Office for National Statistics found that one-in-five adults (21%) are now teetotal, up from 19% in 2005. This rise is mostly attributed to young adults, with the proportion of people aged between 16 and 24 not drinking any alcohol increasing by more than 40% between 2005 and 2013.

premium soft drinks have now forged themselves a mainstream role

A Mintel report found that premium soft drinks have now forged themselves a mainstream role, with six-in-10 adults drinking them in the on-trade in the six months up to November 2014. Offerings with all-natural ingredients enjoy strong premium connotations with many soft drinks manufacturers now emphasising the use of natural and high-quality ingredients in their products as part of their premium positioning.

“The importance of soft drinks cannot be under estimated,” said Lawrence Moore, sales director at Belvoir Fruit Farms. In addition to the increasing number of customers choosing not to drink alcohol, more family visits to the pub means that children also need to be catered for. “Publicans need to give soft drinks the same attention they afford to beers, wines and spirits when making ranging, pricing or promotion decisions.”

The media focus on sugar has made customers more wary about the amount of sugar they consume and this has boosted interest in ‘no added sugar’ options. “Lime & Lemongrass Pressé and Cox Apple Pressé are the first drinks in the Belvoir range to be made with no added sugar and we are finding this is becoming increasingly popular in the on trade,” said Lawrence. “By ensuring that you stock the right products, no one is overlooked and sales are not lost.”

In conclusion, Lawrence said: “In the same way that you would have a guest ale, don’t be afraid to try new and different soft drinks too. The financial risk is comparatively low and building a reputation for an interesting offering in all things is never a bad thing. Always try and inspire your customers and don’t be afraid to start your own trend!”

Simon Green, marketing director, Global Brands agrees that pubs and bars need to capitalise on the trend towards consuming less alcohol. He said: “Adult soft drinks is currently an under-developed category.” Global Brands added a premium soft drink brand to its portfolio in 2015 in the form of Franklins & Sons. Flavour options in the range demonstrate how exciting this sector can be. They include Sicilian Lemonade & English Elderflower with crushed juniper; Wild Strawberry & Scottish Raspberry with cracked black pepper; British Dandelion & handpicked Burdock with star anise; Cloudy Apple & Yorkshire Rhubarb with cinnamon; and Ginger Beer & Malted Barley with a squeeze of lemon.

Fentimans is also planning to add a new flavour to its existing range of premium soft beverages. Its new Sparkling Lime and Jasmine is made using a botanical brewing technique which is said to deliver a complex flavour and cues of a sparkling wine.

Excellent profit margin

Cordials can offer excellent profit margin which many pubs are missing out on. It is economical to purchase and can double up as a kitchen ingredient for use in desserts as well as being a mixer for use in cocktails. Norfolk Cordials is seeking to highlight the potential of cordials with its innovative range of fresh fruit cordials. Georgie Rodwell of Norfolk Cordials, said: “Our elderflower and cucumber cordial is increasing in popularity, as is our rhubarb, orange and ginger – both quite unusual combinations.  It is important not to alienate customers with flavours that are considered too ‘healthy’ or too herby or vegetably, as in general, customers are not that experimental and the majority are not driven by the healthiness factor. The flavour combinations should sound, smell and look enticing.”

It is important to bring the offering into the customer’s eyesight

John McFarlane, also of Norfolk Cordials, goes on to emphasise the importance of promoting your soft options. Every pub and restaurant will have a specials board that offers food and wine suggestions, but this board very rarely includes soft drink suggestions. “This is a missed opportunity,” said John. “It is important to bring the offering into the customer’s eyesight so that subconsciously the mind starts to taste the flavours – they are then much more likely to act on your suggestion… rather than having to stand on tiptoe to look into the fridges behind the bar, try and read all the labels on the bottles to see what you have available and then getting embarrassed for taking too long and finally opting for a cola because they still haven’t really made up their mind!” Does this scenario ring any bells? John reports that pubs are seeing a marked increase in the amount of cordial they sell as a direct result of good promotion.

So, if you’ve’ got it flaunt it! Research shows that the market for soft drinks is growing and attracting a broader, more discerning audience. Suppliers are reacting to this trend and are introducing increasingly more creative and innovative soft drink options. It will be the pubs and bars that recognise and embrace this, expanding the soft drink options that they can offer and the way they promote them, that will reap the benefits.

Author: The Host

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