Major brands may well dominate the soft drinks sector, but it is still an evolving market, with changes in preference for flavours and formats. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently published its 2010 Basket of Goods and Services for the Consumer and Retail Prices Indexes, and made a couple of amendments to echo current trends: the fruit drink bottle has replaced the fruit drink carton, as the bottle format takes an increasing market share; and a small bottle of still mineral water has been added to represent water in the ’on-the-go’ drinks market, to reflect increased spending on bottled water over a period of years, says ONS.

According to the British Soft Drinks Association, carbonated drinks still top the table with the highest market share 42%. Coca-Cola is the single biggest-selling soft drink, worth over £1bn in the UK (AC Nielsen Total Coverage 31.10.09), according to Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE).

Sports drinks

GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) recently published Soft Drinks Live report revealed that energy and sports drinks are continuing to perform well in the impulse sector currently holding a 32% market share. Cola has a 25% share, while flavoured carbonates account for 16%, juice drinks 13%, and water 8% (Nielsen Scantrack data w/e 26.12.09). Top performers within the sports and energy drinks category include Red Bull and Lucozade. Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Cherry Coke were top of the cola category, while Fanta Orange, Dr Pepper and Fanta Fruit Twist were the top three flavoured carbonates. Ribena Blackcurrant and Oasis Summerfruits were the most popular juice drinks and Volvic, in both 500ml and one-litre bottles, was the favourite brand of water (Nielsen Scantrack data w/e 26.12.09).

Just last week, CCE published its own soft drinks report ’Open More Business’. It identified a £1.4bn growth opportunity in the already huge £11.4bn soft drinks category, which CCE said it is looking to target over the next five years. Eleven strategic category drivers were identified in the report, including: category availability; on-the-go; drinking with food; and revive me. CCE also notes that the summer months are a key opportunity for bakery retailers, as they are traditionally a time of increased purchase.

Innovation leader

In terms of changes to format, soft drinks manufacturer Britvic, the home of big brands such as Pepsi, Tango and Robinsons, appears to be leading the way on innovation. Alongside PepsiCo UK, it is to launch a new range of 600ml PET bottles in April across the no- and low-sugar drinks in Britvic’s carbonates range, which include: Pepsi Max, Diet Pepsi, 7Up Free and Tango. Britvic says that despite the view that consumers are trading down in the recession, this hasn’t happened in soft drinks, where staple categories, such as cola and juice drinks, have held up well.

"Retailers should therefore continue to stock the most popular and recognisable lines, along with new products to offer their customer something new," said the firm. "As much as possible, bakers should ensure that packs are properly chilled, as this can increase sales," recommends Murray Harris, sales director, Britvic. "To maximise sales, ensure your chiller is located in a high traffic flow area, in sight of the till and the door."

When considering the layout of your drinks offering in the chiller cabinet, GSK says it is important for retailers to display a minimum of two facings per drink, otherwise the layout of the drinks cabinet can look unorganised. Allocate more space to more popular stock-keeping units (skus), and locate similar products next to each other. It notes that the top 10 skus make up around 40% of total soft drink sales.

"Cluttered fixtures often lead to shoppers being unable to find what they are looking for, so fixtures should be kept neat and clear, with drinks being blocked by segment," explains Selena Taylor, trade communications manager at CCE. "Visible soft drinks displays front-of-store and near the till are more likely to bring thirsty shoppers in from the street, when both speed and convenience are essential attributes." And it may sound obvious, she adds, but "keeping drinks chilled is essential to the consumer".