Britvic Making the most of the soft drinks opportunity with Britvic’s head of wholesale

Britvic is one of the nation’s largest suppliers of branded soft drinks, keeping wholesalers stocked up with popular brands such as Robinsons, Fruit Shoot, Tango, Purdey’s, Drench, J2O, Pepsi Max and 7UP. Ian Patefield, Director of Channel Operations – C&I at Britvic, has worked at Britvic for 16 years across sales, shopper marketing and logistics. Ian speaks to Wholesale Manager.

The wholesale sector is very important to Britvic, says Ian at the start of our conversation:

“We have a specialist division dedicated to the wholesale channel, covering retail, catering and licensed channels. This includes category management and shopper marketing centres of excellence to support wholesalers, alongside a committed field sales team helping drive distribution and rate of sale in independent outlets, which pushes demand in wholesalers. We provide retailers with simple self-executing solutions, which really work to drive sales through our wholesale customers. We know that cash flow and space are key areas for retailers, so we offer smaller case sizes to support them.”

As highlighted in Wholesale Manager’s recent PMPs feature, Britvic also have an extensive range of pricemarked packs to help independent retailers and the wholesalers who serve them:

“We understand PMPs’ importance to our retailers and their consumers. Price-marked-packs have always been a great way for convenience retailers to offer their shoppers value – they help build trust and loyalty, encouraging shoppers to return for competitive prices in the future.”

There are few markets where the impulse factor is as important as it is in soft drinks, Ian continues: “When today’s consumers want something, they want it now. ‘Convenience’ has evolved into ‘immediacy.’ We’re seeing a rise in food delivery and meal subscription services as a result, but also the growth of smaller shopping trips which can benefit convenience retailers.”

Soft drink shoppers buy in the convenience retail category for a range of reasons, says Ian Patefield: “Food to go is the key mission for over forty percent2 of single serve soft drink shoppers and the reason why it’s so important for retailers to have a strong range in a chiller, so products are ready to be enjoyed straight away.

“Shoppers on a food to go mission may have planned to visit their local store for a snack or lunch deal, but won’t necessarily have decided exactly what they are going to buy, so there’s the possibility of driving impulse buys here. With this in mind, we offer a range of price-marked multi-buy single serve cans and 500ml bottles across a wide range of our brands. At two for £1 on 330ml cans, or two for £1.70 on 500ml bottles, it is great value for shoppers to mix and match, enjoying one drink now and one drink later. Britvic’s offer is exclusive to the wholesale and convenience channel, offering a point of difference from deals people will find in a supermarket.

“Taste is the key driver for the soft drinks category, and with Britvic having the best tasting flavoured no sugar colas3 in the category including Pepsi Max Cherry and new Pepsi Max Raspberry, it’s vital that wholesalers have these products in stock, available and visible for customers to buy on impulse.”

Health remains high on the agenda for shoppers, Ian confirms. After last year’s introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, low and no added sugar products are increasingly important: “We’re seeing more shoppers switching to these options from full sugar variants, so wholesalers and retailers need to have a strong range of options to meet demand. Last year, thirty eight percent of soft drinks sales came from sugar free or tax-exempt products4, clearly showing the opportunity linked with products such as Pepsi Max and Robinsons. We’re committed to helping our customers provide choice in this area, without compromising on taste. Hence last year ninety percent of our innovation was on low and no added sugar products – with our most recent additions including Pepsi Max Raspberry and Tango Sugar Free Strawberry & Watermelon.

Water and ‘water plus’ drinks appeal to adults and children, says Ian. The two categories together make up the largest soft drinks segment in convenience and impulse, with consumption growing 16.2 million litres annually6:

“We’ve seen strong growth in ‘water plus’ sales, showing the demand for products that balance taste and hydration, such as Robinsons Refresh’d and Drench.”

Given the convenience market’s impulsive and on the go nature, says Ian, energy drinks have a significant role to play too, but people’s understanding of energy is changing:

“There’s increased awareness of caffeine levels as a result of the announcement of the government consultation on a proposed Under 16 energy drink ban, leading people to start to choose alternative energy drinks to manage their own energy levels. This has led to the rise of a new “natural energy” category, which although currently relatively small (£11.2m7) compared to traditional stimulants (£461m6), is in excellent growth at 32%6. Some brands are delivering scale, including Purdey’s, which is the biggest brand (£4m6) and in growth (+17%6), accounting for 35%6 of value in the category.”

Also part of the Britvic portfolio, Lipton Ice Tea is the fifth biggest soft drinks brand globally8 and the number one ice tea brand in the UK, worth £22m9. The cold hot drinks segment is performing well and delivered strong growth last year at +33.2%4, predominantly driven by Lipton.

The Lipton brand is now set to launch a £3m summer campaign, which will help to drive mass brand awareness across a key sales period for soft drinks. The campaign will include TV and out of home support, digital and social activity, sampling and in outlet activation and Britvic will be announcing further information in the coming months.

As Britvic’s Director of Channel Operations – C&I, Ian Patefield is buoyant about the prospects for the wholesale channel: “The future is bright when it comes to soft drinks sales in wholesale and cash and carry depots! 35% of retailers10 expect sales of soft drinks to grow which is great news for the category. We’ve also seen that shopping trips that include soft drinks tend to be more valuable to cash and carry outlets, demonstrating the importance of getting the aisle absolutely spot-on to encourage maximum sales.

“The wider competition for wholesalers includes delivery and grocery and the continued effect they will have on the market. We are committed to being the portfolio partner to drive incremental soft drinks through our simple self-executing solutions that really work for wholesalers and retailers alike to drive sales.”

The last few years have been challenging for everyone in the soft drinks industry, starting with the sugar tax, but Ian Patefield says Britvic got to work on their products’ sugar content early on:

“We started reformulating our products back in 2013 and since then have removed over twenty billion calories from our portfolio each year. As mentioned earlier, we have led the industry in terms of low and no added sugar products. For the convenience channel, it’s important we continue to offer choice in this growing market to help wholesalers and retailers drive soft drink sales among health-conscious shoppers. One of our latest pieces of innovation includes Pepsi Max Raspberry which delivers on all three category drivers – taste, health and relevance. With Pepsi Max a driving force in no sugar cola, this new raspberry flavour is superior on all sensory and flavour profiles in comparison to its competitors11.”

Everyone in the drinks business is coming out with sustainability initiatives regarding packaging and waste. Britvic are in the forefront, says Ian:

“We are committed to encouraging people to recycle, through such measures as running campaigns in partnership with our customers to promote recycling and working with anti-litter campaigners, both at a national level and more locally with groups such as the Clean Essex Group. We are members of the Packaging Recycling Group Scotland, working with our industry peers to support the Scottish Government boost recycling, reduce waste and help tackle litter.”

In the UK, 100% of Britvic’s PET bottles, cans and glass are already recyclable: “Last year, the investment made in our GB manufacturing capability allowed us to save six hundred tonnes of primary plastic through light-weighting our bottles. and we also trialled the introduction of rPET into our portfolio.”

Britvic have also switched their cans from steel to aluminium, so far saving over 2,800 tonnes of packaging material.

Britvic have been taking major steps to help wholesalers and their end customers grow their sales in the past 12 months, says Ian Patefield:

“Ninety percent of our innovation in 2018 was on low and no added sugar12, at a time when consumers were looking for healthier soft drinks. Not only are we supporting wholesalers and their customers with these exciting alternatives, we have also launched products in this area in line with the latest flavour trends, including Tango Strawberry & Watermelon, Tango Tropical, and Pepsi Max Raspberry. All these products fall below the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to help support wholesalers and retailers with offering their customers healthier drinks, but without compromising on taste.”

Britvic offer these four top tips for wholesalers to help them make the most of the soft drinks category:

• Stock the right range – To help retailers provide their shoppers with immediate refreshment, it is important to stock a broad range of branded soft drinks from established segments including water and water plus brands like Robinsons Refresh’d and Drench

• Great merchandising – Retailers are often in a hurry as they pop in to pick up bits and pieces throughout the day, so group sub-categories together to make it easier for shoppers to find what they are looking for. Britvic recommend segmenting the chiller into four areas – carbonates, stills, energy & vitality and water & water plus

• Highlight NPD – Make sure new soft drinks stand out in the soft drinks aisle, with additional point of sale around the depot to point customers in the right direction

• Be visible – Make sure water and water plus brands are in a prominent location in depot.

Leading brands should always have sufficient space on shelf to help customers who are looking for their specific favourites find what they are looking for. Restock shelves frequently to keep up with demand – any gaps in-depot represent potential missed sales for wholesalers!

Ian Patefield sees Britvic’s out of home, convenience and impulse sales developing strongly in the next 12 months:

“We’ve identified a £100m sales opportunity for convenience and impulse retailers this year, translating into each and every single retailer putting an additional £2,200 in their tills and we hope to support them to get after this with some simple and effective actions. “Soft drinks as a category is hugely expandable. We already know that convenience is becoming more important to people’s lives, and it makes the category one of the biggest opportunities to grow sales for retailers and therefore wholesalers. The category has a role to play around refreshment, snacking, food to go and meals for tonight, in addition to a strong top up shop that consumers are increasingly using the convenience and impulse channel as part of their busy everyday lives.

“We have great brands at Britvic, both in established categories such as cola and lemonade, but also in emerging categories including ‘water plus’ and natural energy. We are proud of our status as a leading supplier to support wholesalers in maximising the opportunity. Health will continue to be a key driver and therefore with our broad portfolio in low and no sugar drinks, we see this as a huge opportunity.

“As a supplier, we have a unique role to play in generating demand from consumers in outlets by deploying great pieces of brand execution to drive retailer’s sales and then back to the wholesaler. We have delivered selfexecuting mechanics to increase rate of sale and basket spend, as one example we have launched 2 for £1 cans across Pepsi Max, Tango and 7UP Free.

“As a portfolio supplier, we can support retailers and wholesalers by helping them tap into new trends and drive future growth. An example of this would be how we’ve promoted Pepsi Max Raspberry within our portfolio of 500ml bottles – encouraging a risk-free, multi-buy deal to offer retailers a great opportunity to trail this NPD in their stores. Our Robinsons brand leads the squash category and after a successful take home launch we have launched Robinsons Creations in price-marked packs as a premium offer to help retailers and wholesalers unlock better margins for customers making top up purchases.

“Our strong category and shopper resources allow us to work with our customers on ranging and promotions, on shelves and at the till. Whatever the reason is for the shopper visiting the store, our broad portfolio can offer them exactly what they are looking for – a solution that meets their need, and most importantly tastes great!