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Thirsty work

Does your drinks offering reflect the growing demand for healthy hydration?

Despite the government’s surprise announcement in Spring last year that it would be introducing a levy on soft drinks containing added sugar, sales of soft drinks have continued to grow in the UK Foodservice and Licensed channels. According to Britvic’s annual report, the category is valued at £6.7 billion, up +3.3% since 2015, and it appears to be the On-The-Go sector which is experiencing the biggest growth with sales up 26.7%, meaning it’s now worth £505 million.

The trend for healthy living is arguably having the biggest impact on the soft drinks category as consumers increasingly look to reduce their sugar and alcohol consumption. It’s a trend noticed by Hugh Thomas, co-CEO at Ugly Drinks, who says: “We’re seeing growing consumer demand for low and no sugar drinks across the UK. Consumers are looking to make healthier switches where they can and sugary drinks is one of the easiest and quickest ways to reduce your sugar in take on the go, with a simple swap.”

One of the segments to benefit the most from this health push is flavoured waters and, as such, Ugly Drinks is seeing sales of its no sugar, no sweetener Lemon and Lime and Grapefruit and Pineapple infused waters increase. Given this changing consumer demand, Hugh believes it’s important that fish and chip shops begin to consider their full offering for consumers, adding: “Consumers want choice and they want to have the option to choose healthier beverages at all points of purchase.

“We certainly see consumers considering what they drink as much as what they eat and for fish and chip shops to stay relevant to changing modern consumers, they should have a full range of beverages on offer including healthier options to ensure they continue to appeal to as many consumers as possible.”

Other manufacturers have been quick to respond to this demand for healthy hydration too. Britvic, for example has just launched Robinsons Refresh’d, a combination of spring water and real fruit in three flavour combinations - Raspberry & Apple, Orange & Lime and Apple & Kiwi. With just 55kcal per 500 ml, it is said to appeal to consumers looking for more interesting and lower sugar fruit drink options, with real fruit and no added sugar.

It’s also extended its Drench Sparkling range by adding new single serve 500ml PET bottles to its current 330ml can offering. Available in Raspberry & Cranberry and Grape & Elderflower, the drinks contain only 17 calories per 100ml, less than half the calories of an average sparkling fruit drink.

AG Barr, meanwhile, has also put its weight behind flavoured waters by investing £5 million promoting its Rubicon Spring drinks. With four variants to choose from – Strawberry Kiwi, Lemon Lime, Orange Mango and Black Cherry Raspberry, the drinks are supported with TV adverts, digital animated outdoor posters, social media, sampling and in-store POS.

Explaining the push, AG Barr’s marketing director Adrian Troy comments: “Branded flavoured sparkling water is currently one of the strongest performing areas within the soft drinks market, growing at +144%. Rubicon Spring has delivered nearly 1/3 of this growth, with sales of over £10 million since it was launched in July 2016.”

To help drive sales of these items, Troy recommends fish and chip shops stock them in the chiller cabinet, positioned between carbonates and water.

In light of the soft drinks levy, major drink manufacturers continue to reformulate their products and launch new low or no sugar variants. AG Barr for example has just rolled out IRN-BRU XTRA nationally, a new fuller flavoured variant containing more of the famous IRN-BRU taste but with no sugar.  Available in 500ml and 2 litre PET and 750ml glass bottles, it has already sold over 23 million cans in Scotland since it was launched last August. A trial in England, meanwhile, has seen sales of XTRA deliver a 10% increase on total IRN-BRU sales, showing its potential to drive sales of the overall flavoured carbonates category.

Coca-Cola continues to innovate too by bringing low sugar versions to the market, the most recent being Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Vanilla this month. Available in 1.75l and 500ml PET bottles and 330ml can formats, it is to be followed up later in the summer by improved Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Cherry.

Meanwhile, keeping with the no sugar theme while focusing on healthy ingredients, Pepsi Co has introduced Pepsi MAX Ginger. The first cola and ginger flavour to hit the UK market, it contains natural ginger flavouring and no sugar and is available in 330ml cans and 500ml and 600ml PET bottle formats.

It’s not just carbonates that are cleaning up their act. Shmoo, the UK’s No.1 selling thickshake concept, has kept its recipes as clean as possible so that it ticks all the boxes. Not only does it fall under the lowest level of percentage sugar advised by the government (under 5%), it is 99% fat free, has over 30% RDA calcium, contains just  84 calories (based on a regular 13oz serving), and it’s gluten free. Available in a range of flavours including chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, Shmoo is supplied with free cups, domed lids and straws.

Stressing the importance of stocking low calorie drinks, AG Barr’s Adrian Troy concludes: “The soft drinks market has evolved with 57% of shoppers looking to reduce their sugar intake, offering retailers an additional sales opportunity by offering a greater choice of low calorie products.

“However consumers are not prepared to compromise on taste and a growing number are looking for low and zero sugar options featuring the full-on flavour they get from regular products.”

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