’Better for you’ choices emerged as the biggest growth area in soft drinks retail last year, according to the latest research, as bakers were urged to diversify their drinks offering, reports Andrew Williams.

Glucose and stimulant drinks, smoothies and sports drinks all fared well in 2007, with consumers seeking out functional benefits such as vitamins, minerals or energy. As many as 18 of the top 20 launches last year offered a perceived health benefit, said the Britvic Soft Drinks Report 2007.

Paul Moody, president of The British Soft Drinks Association and chief executive of Britvic Soft Drinks, told BB that bakery retailers should still be catering for mainstream tastes, but that niche drinks were on the up.

He said: "Superstores present a huge range of products from, at the one end, the traditional scale brands, such as Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola, to obscure, small brands, which fulfil an interesting role. Over time, that breadth of offer will translate its way into bakeries or high street sandwich shops."

The biggest question for bakery retailers, he said, would be how much space to devote to niche drinks in the chiller cabinets. Burgeoning drinks such as "enhanced water" - with added vitamins or electrolytes to aid hydration - doubled their market in the US last year. Over time these drinks could accelerate into the mainstream in the UK.

l Britvic has launched Lime Grove - a range of on-trade-only drinks. The sparkling fruit drinks will be sold in 275ml glass bottles. It has also added a 250ml single-serve pack to its Robinsons Smooth Juice range to tap into health trends.