From fizzing formats to healthy choices – here’s how to make your sales pop

1. Soft drinks enjoyed a £549m Convenience Christmas in 2021

2. Three quarters of 18-44 consumers see carbonated soft drinks as a treat

3. Adult soft drinks are a great option for the 20% of over 16s who don’t drink alcohol

4. Multipacks are in strong double-digit growth, +13.2% MAT

5. Customers are brand loyal – and want something new

6. HFSS regulations won’t see soft drinks sales fall flat


Source: GettyImages-1356374417


1. Soft drinks enjoyed a £549m Convenience Christmas in 2021


Stats show that last Christmas consumers got back on the pop. With families and friends free to mingle following swingeing Covid restrictions, the soft stuff was once again a key feature of the holiday season.

“Last year, soft drinks had the biggest Christmas period in the last three years, worth £549m RSV and bucking the trend of the overall convenience performance growing at +20% [IRI],” says Ben Parker, GB retail commercial director at Britvic.

“This period also added £92m RSV vs 2020 to convenience [ibid] – a true success story for the channel following Covid-19 restrictions hindering some seasonal opportunities over the last couple of years.”

Plus, the December World Cup should provide an opportunity to boost sales too as people choose to watch the match at home.

“I think people tend to spend out on soft drinks at Christmas whatever is going on in the world,” says Stuart Cordner from Cordner’s Comber Road in Belfast.

“That means they’ll get their favourites whatever the price and then worry about the bill when it comes in January. We always do well with the brands – we sell absolutely loads of Coca-Cola over the festive period.”

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Source: GettyImages-1135420212

2. Three quarters of 18-44 consumers see carbonated soft drinks as a treat


As Stuart says, Christmas is all about treating and trading up. And that fits well with the current soft drinks category – which emphasizes the treat factor.

“Around 75% of 18-44-year-olds consider carbonated soft drinks as a treat rather than an everyday product, so retailers should present the category in an appealing way to encourage engagement and purchase,” says Matt Gouldsmith, channel director (wholesale) at Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I.

Adrian Troy, marketing director at Barr Soft Drinks, says that carbonates need to be on a retailer’s Christmas wishlist.

”Flavoured carbonates are huge at Christmas, delivering over a quarter of soft drinks growth [IRI] as shoppers look for a bigger range of exciting flavours so retailers should widen the choice available to maximise this oportunity.”

Rubicon saw a 30% uplift in carbonates over Christmas period [IRI]. The brand says that traditional flavours often see a decline during the festive months, signifying the importance of products like Rubicon Sparkling and Spring.

Brands believe that the cost of living crisis will see shoppers trade up where they can and focus on small luxuries rather than big spendy items.

“The treat segment has increased +1.9ppts year-on-year [IRI], aligned with the consumer trend of seeking out small and affordable luxuries during times of financial hardship, known as the lipstick effect,” says Parker.

“Retailers should target these occasions by offering premium ranges that tempt shoppers to trade up, while still being a lower cost alternative to socialising at a pub or dining out.

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Cordners_Shloer 99p Christmas promotion

3. Adult soft drinks are a great option for the 20% of over 16s who don’t drink alcohol

“Premium soft drinks are also a great non-alcoholic choice which can be enjoyed at home when spending time with family and friends over the festive period, particularly as 20% [Mintel] of over 16s don’t drink alcohol at all, so retailers should consider merchandising these next to alcohol,” says Suntory’s Gouldsmith.

It’s even better if shoppers can get a deal on a premium brand. Every year Stuart has Shloer on offer as part of the store’s ’12 Deals of Christmas’ promotion (pictured).

“We sell absolutely loads of it because people are looking for that name and that value,” he says.

“Customers will come in and ask when it’s next on. We make nothing on margin – but in terms of footfall it’s absolutely amazing for us.”

Another contender within adult soft drinks is the “world’s first naturally uplifting tonic water.”

“With Tonic Water being one of the biggest growth drivers in adult soft drinks [Kantar], sports and energy drinks growing 15.2% in value last year [Nielsen], and 75% of adults reporting concerns about tiredness, the appetite for a drinkable energy boost is clear,” says Louise Lloyd, Buzzed founder.

“As research shows 70% of consumers have become more attentive to natural ingredient claims over the last 12 months [FMCG Gurus], Buzzed provides consumers with the ultimate, all-nature energy uplift.”

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4. Multipacks are in strong double-digit growth, +13.2% MAT


As you’d expect in a cost-of-living crisis, PMPS are set to be a big draw for Xmas 2022 (and beyond). Yet retailers can also signal value in the chiller by going large with pack sizes.

“Larger formats have driven over £228m in value to the category, seeing significant growth of +15.9% vs YA [Nielsen],” says Red Bull Spokesperson..

“Penetration of these formats is now +49.7% vs YA [Kantar], and over 35% of all larger-can drinkers enjoy Red Bull on-the-go [Kantar behavioural survey]. It is therefore vital to stock these larger variants so consumers can enjoy a longer-lasting functional boost.”

Troy agrees that multipacks are key for a jolly Christmas, especially as multipacks are seeing strong double-digit rises, +13.2% MAT [Nielsen], and driving 47% incremental growth [Kantar]. “It’s crucial to get your range right and stock up on those best selling brands that shoppers will be looking for, in both multipack and larger pack formats, to cater to those preparing for family get-togethers and parties,”

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karma cola girl in freetown_hard bright

5. Customers are brand loyal – and want something new

Consumers are a contradictory lot. At Christmas they often want their old favourites, alongside something brand new to bring to the table.

“Interestingly, the category has a contradictory consumer mentality,” says Kenton Burchell, group trading director at Bestway Wholesale.

“While brand loyalty is very strong in the category, so too is the willingness to try something new. This means that catering for new consumer trends – such as healthy eating – should be balanced by a core range of favourite brands this Christmas.”

“For us it’s always Coca-Cola that sells well in the run-up to Christmas,” says Sharon McDonald from Little Fresh at Pembrokeshire College in Wales.

“People want what their friends are buying. But having said that we also do well with Lucozade Sport, and people often want a healthy choice to ward off a cold, like our juices.”

Ethical buys have a place at the table too, according to Laura Pink, European marketing manager at ethical soft drinks brand Karma.

“Consumers continue to spend on premium and quality drinks; this large umbrella now includes ethical products with traceable supply chains, and real organic ingredients grown just as mother nature intended,” she says.

“Christmas is also all about giving back, so where better to spend your money than with a brand with clear ethical supply chains who pay their farmers a fair wage?”

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6. HFSS regulations won’t see soft drinks sales fall flat

This Santa season bigger c-stores will be thinking hard about Ho-ho-HFSS regs. It’s the baby regs’ first ever Christmas. And so retailers will be looking closely at what they mean for soft drink sales.

“HFSS regulations will have an impact on the convenience market this festive season, but how significant this impact is remains to be seen,” says Burchell.

“If anything, the regulations present a fantastic opportunity for smaller convenience stores to take advantage of the more stringent restrictions facing larger stores.”

She also points out that, unlike confectionery, brands sorted out their sugar levels a long time ago, which means lower-sugar Irn Bru and Fanta (and sugar-free Coke Zero) are all well-established.

“The biggest brands in the category began offering healthier alternatives well before HFSS regulations were announced so we do not expect the category to be overly affected,” he insists.

“Soft drinks, especially fizzy drinks, are considered to be a treat, which means that shoppers will still make impulse purchases or buy their preferred brands regardless of promotional activity.”

We’ll all raise a glass of pop to that…

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