Soft drinks shoppers looking for value are increasingly turning to squash to keep both themselves and their kids hydrated. Tracy West reports

Squash sales are on the up and it’s easy to see why. Cash-strapped mums love its value as well as its health credentials as more and more squash lines contain no added sugar, but real juice.

According to AC Nielsen MAT data to July 9, squash sales in the UK are worth £508m and seeing growth of 3.4%, but in the impulse sector sales are up further, by 4.6%. Michael Walford, senior brand manager for Ribena at GlaxoSmithKline Nutritional Healthcare, puts this performance down to the fact that c-stores typically have a better range of squash than other outlets.

He says the core range for c-stores is Ribena blackcurrant 600ml; Robinsons no added sugar orange 1ltr; Robinsons no added sugar blackcurrant & apple 1ltr; Robinsons apple & blackcurrant 1ltr; and Robinsons orange 1ltr. That’s because these five lines deliver more than 35% of total segment sales in impulse, so it’s important they are always available.

Retailer’s view: Pat Patel

“Robinsons and own label are our big sellers in squash, and apple & blackcurrant and summer fruits are the best-selling varieties. 

“We sell own label Nisa squash at ‘two for £1.20’; it’s hot outside at the moment so that’s going well. Ribena is currently on bogof so that’s flying out, but usually it’s quite slow because of the price. 

“As for adult soft drinks, sales of Shloer have really slowed down unless it is on promotion. J20 is more popular; we sell that in individual bottles and multipacks. It sells well at Christmas, in the summer and at bank holidays.” 
Pat Patel, Nisa Local, Hemel Hempstead

Barr Soft Drinks category insight manager Mike Simons says the benefit of squash is that the whole family will consume it, and it can be made to go further by virtue of the fact that it is a dilutable product.

“There has been a great deal of activity by private label and mid-tier brands focusing on driving the value message through npd and pricemarking. As such, the squash category has been very well placed to benefit from the downturn. Squash typically does well as a category when economic times are tougher,” he says.

Simons reckons there needs to be clear good/better/best tiering in terms of range. “There needs to be a range of economy (and often bulk) products within ‘good’. ‘Better’ should provide quality with identifiable, pricemarked brands, and ‘best’ should offer high-juice or adult flavours. Within convenience, 60% of sales will come from the mid-tier, so emphasis should be placed here.”

He says Barr’s recently introduced Simply Squash provides a good value, great-tasting alternative to the current brand leaders. Available in orange and apple & blackcurrant flavours, it’s available in an 89p pricemarked pack to highlights its value to consumers.

When it comes to offering more exciting flavours, Simons says: “The overall motivation to buy squash is value great quality at a good price. In actual fact, 75% of sales continue to be driven by three flavours orange, blackcurrant and blackcurrant & apple.”

Orange may be the UK’s favourite flavour of squash, but Ribena’s Walford says there are plenty of blackcurrant and berry fans out there, too, as witnessed by the brand’s sales being up 8.9% (Nielsen data). He puts this down to the popularity of the strawberry variant as well as in-store activity such as promotions and point of sale. He reports that the 600ml blackcurrant bottle is doing really well, growing by 12.6% in impulse. He says it sells best in £1.69 pricemarked packs. “Squash has really benefited from the economic downturn as consumers strive for value. So it’s important that c-store retailers communicate the value message.”

But he reckons mums are more concerned with how long a bottle of squash will last them rather than the actual number of servings they’ll get from it. “It’s all about how frequently they’ll need to purchase it,” he says, “and research shows that consumers buy 24 bottles a year.”

All Ribena marketing is aimed at mums. “We brought the Ribena berries back to life 18 months ago to communicate the vitamin C content message. We are running an on-pack promotion where consumers can win tickets to family-friendly festivals, plus we are doing a three-month sampling campaign in key towns and cities, often outside c-stores, to get consumers to try the full range.”

The sampling tour is targeting more than a million consumers using the mobile ‘Berry Wagon’, branded bicycles and a themed picnic area.

“Ribena’s experiential tour has been designed to appeal to all of the Ribena core audiences, from young adults to mums and families,” explains Walford. “It’s our most strategic to date, with every venue carefully positioned near multiple points of sale. It will also be our first tour to include the full Ribena product range, incorporating all our ‘drink now’ and ‘take home’ variants.”

Joanna Watling, marketing director for Princes soft drinks, says parents seem to view squash as an easy way to get their children to drink water and stay hydrated because it provides them with refreshing, fruity drinks that are cost effective. Princes offers retailers the Jucee range, a brand that sells particularly well in convenience outlets.

“In the current economic climate, value continues to be important to consumers, but not at the expense of quality,” she explains. “Consumers are still looking for a brand that they know and trust, such as Jucee, which is why we’ve seen year-on-year growth in both volume up 53% and value up 37% (AC Nielsen).”

Ones to watch…

Wedded bliss 
Belvoir is giving away two ‘perfect wedding’ packages in its latest marketing initiative. The neck collar promotion is offering two prizes of £15,000 in cash as well as £1,000 to spend on flowers and 120 bottles of its pressés to help wedding guests toast the bride and groom. 
tel: 01476 870286 

Do us a flavour 
J20’s ‘Mix Up A Mouthful’ promotion asks consumers to create their own J2O flavour. The winner will see their concoction turned into a limited-edition flavour next year, plus they’ll receive £20,000. The promotion is part of a £3m marketing campaign including TV and online advertising. 
tel: 0845 7581781 

Festival fun 
The Ribena Festival Tickets promotion is running on selected packs of the squash until November 1. To be in with a chance of winning adult or family tickets to events, consumers must purchase a pack and enter the promotional code at to see if they have won. 
tel: 08702 415132 

That’s champion 
Robinsons Fruit Shoot’s Champion of the Playground on-pack promotion is giving away more than 12,000 skills kits to children. Champion of the Playground is an online league for kids that encourages them to learn and practice new skills. Children can also enter a prize draw to win a Skills Kit. 
tel: 0845 7581781 

Going Coco 
Vita Coco’s coconut water is a big hit with celebrities, plus it’s just been awarded a gold star at the Great Taste Awards 2011. Two varieties 100% pure coconut water and coconut water with pineapple both won the coveted stars. The drink comes in 330ml cartons. 
rrp: £1.49 tel: 020 7183 7312

Orange is the most popular Jucee flavour, followed by apple & blackcurrant.

Watling adds: “As space is usually at a premium it’s important to get the mix of brands and flavours right. Independent retailers should assign most of their shelf space to classic flavours such as orange and apple & blackcurrant and have a mix of brands which are trusted by consumers, and offer a mix of price points.

“A small amount of space could be assigned to more exotic flavour varieties to give consumers extra choice, but the classic flavours are the ones that drive sales, so they should be the priority.”

She says clever merchandising that reflects seasonal shopping habits is key to maximising squash sales in independent retail outlets. “Squash is used for a number of occasions throughout the year, but particularly in the summer when families take picnics, enjoy barbecues and the children head back to school. It presents an opportunity for independent retailers to highlight the products with prominent displays in store that will drive extra sales.”

Robinsons is the brand leader in squash. According to AC Nielsen MAT figures (December 25, 2010) it accounted for 42% of category growth last year and grew 5% in value, helped in part by the 75th anniversary of its association with Wimbledon.

Britvic added Robinsons double concentrate to the range earlier this year, complete with a new ‘pour control’ feature and easy-to-grip handle that helps families make their squash just the way they like it, without making a mess.

It is available in 1.25ltr and 1.75ltr formats in regular and no added sugar variants. Recommended retail prices are £2.59 and £3.49 respectively.

Robinsons brand controller Debbie Eddy says: “Moving into the double concentrate market with Robinsons was a natural step for the brand, which is currently worth £217m (which represents a 42% value share of the market AC Nielsen) and is growing by 4%. Attitudes to soft drinks have shifted over the past couple of years, with consumers consistently demanding value for money. It’s not just about saving pennies at any cost, it’s about consumers still being able to enjoy their favourite brands, but not necessarily paying a premium for the privilege.

“Not only does Robinsons double concentrate deliver value in terms of the amount of servings it provides, but the innovative design of the bottle helps to minimise waste. Our research tells us that many children are allowed to pour their own squash and this sometimes leads to over-pouring. The pour control feature on the new bottle will eliminate this risk.”

Another brand that’s growing particularly strongly is Vimto. According to AC Nielsen, it is now the number four cordial in the UK and its value has climbed 14.3% to £1.7m in the past year. Vimto brand manager Emma Hunt says: “The steady growth of the cordials market and success of our brand indicates that people are continuing to choose dilutes to make their money go further in times of austerity. It’s a good solution for shoppers who are keeping a family fed and watered on a tight budget.”

Adults only
Shloer is the brand leader in the £112.7m adult soft drinks category with a 26% value share (AC Nielsen). The people behind the brand have been working with independent retailers to help them make the most of this expanding sector of the soft drinks market.

Amanda Grabham, head of brand marketing at Shloer, says: “Adult soft drinks are a sizeable and growing segment within the soft drinks category, but the role they play isn’t always fully appreciated, and tend not to be recognised or merchandised as a distinct sector and Shloer, in particular, has its own position.

“Research shows that consumers see Shloer as being unique in that it fulfils a very different role (Tangible Consumer Research). The fact that Shloer is grape-based sets it apart from its competitors and reinforces the wine-alternative connection in consumers’ minds.

“It has adult acceptability which makes it perfect for social gatherings, and the 75cl bottle makes it ideal for sharing. For all of these reasons as well as the fact that it contains no preservatives, artificial colours, sweeteners or flavourings Shloer is very much the brand of choice on social occasions.”

Grabham continues: “The growth potential was also highlighted in the Premium Soft Drinks Report published by Mintel Oxygen last year. The report stated that people are increasingly keen to look after their health and are happier to pay more for quality, and that this has led to an increase in demand for a more sophisticated alternative to alcohol and a more natural alternative to carbonated soft drinks.

“This is definitely being seen in the significant uplift in Shloer sales. It is continuing to drive the total adult soft drinks category where over the past 12 months Shloer sales have increased by 10% adding £2.7m in value.

“The Mintel Oxygen Report also estimated that 18 million UK adults are likely to buy a soft drink to accompany a meal at home and suggested that targeting mealtime occasions offers a prime opportunity for developing premium soft drink sales.

“This is not only good news for Shloer, as linking with meal occasions has formed the bedrock of the brand’s marketing activity in recent years, but it also fits with the shopper profile of convenience stores.”

Grabham adds: “We’ve been working with impulse stores to help them realise the potential sales opportunity by including Shloer in their soft drinks offering.”

She says the key challenge within the category is to encourage and educate retailers. “The soft drinks category is broad and vast and adult soft drinks can be forgotten.”

She advises retailers to stock the brand alongside the larger bottles of Schweppes and premium lemonades, which are more adult-orientated brands and are purchased for similar types of social occasions as Shloer such as friends and families getting together.

Further support for Shloer comes from an increased marketing spend. The investment in the brand’s ‘Best Served Shared’ campaign has been increased to £16m a third more than in 2010. It targets the key audience of 35- to 60-year-old females who enjoy socialising with family and friends.

Activity includes: TV and press advertising; the launch of a new limited-edition Shloer summer fruit punch; sponsorship of 15 English Heritage and Tatton Park Picnic concerts where 110,000 visitors will be given the opportunity to sample Shloer; sponsorship of the 2011 Asian Bride Shows; the creation of a Facebook application; tailormade promotional activity through cash & carries and delivered wholesalers; and free point-of sale material available to independent retailers through its hotline 0800 917 3450.

Grabham says: “Since we embarked on the ‘Best Served Shared’ campaign, Shloer sales have really taken off. Sales in the year to May 2011 are 30% higher than in the year to April 2009 (Nielsen) when we launched the campaign. This performance over the past two years has added £6.8m to the retail sales value of the brand, and there’s still plenty of opportunity for growth which is why we are increasing the investment behind the brand again this year.”

Grabham recommends three key lines for c-stores: red grape, white grape; and rosé. Recommended retail price is £2.29-£2.39.

Also for adults is the Fentimans brand, stocked by the likes of Sainsbury’s. Tiffany McKirdy, operations director at the company, says the brand is now enjoying rising sales in convenience stores.

“Health is certainly a concern for most consumers,” says McKirdy. “Everyone reads labels and so Fentimans, which is made with 100% natural ingredients and no additives and preservatives, has great appeal.”

The company recently launched its rose lemonade in a single-serve 275ml bottle following its popularity in a 750ml bottle.

She says the drinks are not limited to a female audience women tend to enjoy the lemonades, while men go for the ginger beer and shandy.

Meanwhile, Barr’s Simons reports that ‘traditional’ adult drinks are performing particularly well, up by 44% year on year, driven by Barr’s Originals (Nielsen data). This range comprises lemonade, dandelion & burdock, ginger beer and cream soda with a twist of raspberry.

All are available in 750ml bottles and 330ml cans. Each is made from classical recipes dating back more than 100 years. The target audience is men and women aged 45-plus who are “searching out authentic tastes from their past”.

retailer’s view Alec Gardner

“Robinsons orange is our big seller. I think people buy squash because they are more health conscious. We find that particularly with Ribena, but that doesn’t sell as well as Robinsons. 

“For adults we have Shloer, and sales are reasonable, and J2O does really well.” Alec Gardner, East Bergholt Post Office, Suffolk:

“The key to unlocking sales within convenience is clear blocking and price tiering with a focus on the mid-tier,” says Simons. “There are three very different segments within adult soft drinks alcohol replacement, contemporary and traditional. All three have very different usage occasions. For example, alcohol replacement may be purchased as a sharing occasion or as a gift, while traditional is all about enjoying a personal favourite flavour, and is predominantly enjoyed as an individual treat. All three segments need to be blocked as such on fixture.”

He continues: “As shoppers continue to drink at home, rather than go out, the big brands within alcohol replacement (J20 and Shloer) continue to thrive, and here the driving factor is the range of flavours and pack sizes available (for sharing).

“Traditional drinks are also performing very well, and this is due to the emergence of drinks which provide all of the heritage and taste cues required, but at everyday prices. Within traditional, shoppers are no longer prepared to pay a premium.”

Finally, to premium adult brands. Belvoir Fruit Farms says it was the first company in the UK to start selling elderflower cordial more than 26 years ago and it is still its biggest seller today.

The company now produces 13 cordials, 10 pressés and five flavours of Fruit Crush. The whole range is made using 100% natural ingredients free from artificial flavours, sweeteners, colours, preservatives or any other ‘nasties’.

The latest addition to the Fruit Crush range is an orange & pink grapefruit variety made from real pressed ruby orange and pink grapefruit with Belvoir spring water. It comes in convenient 12 x 27.5cl-bottle cases.

The other Fruit Crush flavours are pear & raspberry, apple & blueberry, apple & elderflower and blackcurrant & apple.

Meanwhile, Bottlegreen Drinks has taken elderflower and added green tea to come up with greentea & elderflower sparkling pressé. The new flavour aims to capitalise on the growing trend for green tea and its perceived health benefits. The drink is described as having a “distinctive and refreshing taste”, made from hand-picked elderflowers, infused green tea and lightly sparkling water. It contains no added preservatives or sweeteners.

Bottlegreen Drinks managing director Simon Speers says: “Our pressé range has gone from strength to strength, which means that we’re now in a position to be a little more bold with our offering and add more unusual flavours to the line.”