Lucozade Ribena Suntory A great soft drinks heritage and a bright future

Formed in 2014 Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS) is one of the leading soft drinks businesses in the UK and Ireland, and part of Suntory Beverage & Food Europe. The foundations of the business are the much-loved soft drinks brands Lucozade Energy and Ribena, which have been with us for generations.

In recent years LRS have responded to the long-term trend towards soft drinks with reduced sugar levels, as sugar-conscious consumers become more interested in living healthier lifestyles. Their portfolio of top brands also includes Lucozade Energy, Lucozade Sport, Ribena and Orangina. Matt Gouldsmith, Channel Director, Wholesale at Lucozade Ribena Suntory spoke to Wholesale Manager.

“I manage the LRS Wholesale Business Unit within Lucozade Ribena Suntory and all our interactions externally with our direct wholesale customers and the retailers who buy our products. No two days are ever the same. Luckily, I like a challenge and enjoy spinning plates!

“There’s a lot to do – my team plan the year ahead including promotions, how we activate in store or with our customers, production and communication with the trade and consumer. Before that we agree our plan internally, align it to our major brand campaigns and work with our brand teams to ensure they produce the right packs, flavours and formats to meet our customer needs. Then we go and execute the plan with the customer through our sales teams!

“The wholesale channel is at the heart of everything we do, so I spend a considerable amount of time in depot and in meetings with customers. We also have a dedicated team of key account managers and business development executives, who work directly with customers to provide category advice and recommendations, visiting depots around the country to advise on display and retailer education. Our engagement doesn’t stop there – we have a committed field sales team to ensure the retailers are supported and we’re doubling our investment in 2019 to allow even more stores to benefit.”

Formed in 2014 as part of Suntory Beverage & Food Europe, LRS are a relatively young company in the FMCG sector, backed by the incredibly strong British heritage of their leading brands. There are over 600 employees on three sites, Coleford in Gloucestershire, London and Dublin.

“Reflecting our parent company Suntory’s philosophy,” says Matt Gouldsmith, “our business is driven by our “Yatte Minahare” spirit, and our role is to have a positive impact on the lives of our consumers.”

The biggest trend across the food and drink market, says Matt Gouldsmith, is a continued consumer interest in leading healthier lifestyles, in soft drinks and elsewhere:

“Shoppers are looking for products that taste great but also deliver against a desire to make healthier choices. At LRS, we are committed to always producing great-tasting drinks that put consumers’ health and wellbeing first, and our portfolio reflects this. Our entire core portfolio is below the sugar levy threshold, with every brand also having a low- or zero-sugar variant.”

NPD is key to maintaining consumer interest in soft drinks. LRS’s latest product news is the launch of the new Ribena sub brand, Ribena Frusion. The innovation sees Ribena move into the enhanced and flavoured water category for the first time, says Matt:

“Ribena Frusion is unique in the soft drink category in using blackcurrant water naturally infused with real fruits and botanicals, tapping into the growing focus on consumer wellness through being low in calories, rich in Vitamin C and with no low-calorie sweeteners or preservatives.”

Zero and low sugar drinks are now undoubtedly must-stocks as consumers move towards healthier lifestyles, but Matt insists you don’t need to sacrifice flavour when you cut down sugar: “The Lucozade Zero range – Orange, Original and Pink Lemonade – are in combined nine percent year on year growth, which has accelerated to nineteen percent in the past few months. Ribena Light is also performing strongly, at five percent growth over the past year. These encouraging uplifts are proof of the increasing consumer interest in lower sugar soft drinks which don’t compromise on great taste.”

LRS regularly carry out extensive research with their loyal consumers, taste-testing new recipes from their favourite brands: “We’re proud to say the majority of them can’t identify a difference between the lower sugar versions and the originals.“

In addition to lower-sugar drinks which deliver the flavours consumers know and love, Matt and the LRS team encourages wholesalers to carry a range catering to those looking for a less sweet-tasting option. Lucozade Sport Fitwater, for example, is now worth over £3M. The drink contains four key electrolytes to help replenish consumers, including magnesium, which contributes to electrolyte balance and a reduction of fatigue, and calcium, which helps normal muscle function. “2019 is going to be a great year for LRS,” says Matt Gouldsmith, “as we continue to execute best-in-class consumer marketing campaigns to support our brands and new launches.”

Ribena Frusion’s launch will be supported with over £6M of throughthe- line spend, including TV, out-ofhome, digital, sampling and in-store support, running from May. Another major piece of activity is the latest flavour launch from Lucozade Sport. The brand has teamed up with British sporting icon Anthony Joshua, to introduce a new special edition variant to its line-up. Lucozade Sport Fruit Punch is being supported by a £5M marketing campaign kicking off in April, including social, digital and outof- home activity.

“Importantly for the wholesale channel,” says Matt, “this support will be continued through the line – with activation in stores, depots and digitally. Digital activation is a key enabler as we know retailers are using digital platforms for more than shopping; they’re also checking prices, looking for category advice and new products too.”

LRS have also brought a new flavour to the Lucozade Energy line-up, Apple Blast. Matt brings the story up to date: “Since launching as a limited-edition flavour last summer as part of the brand’s partnership with the Lara Croft franchise, Apple Blast has proved an instant hit, quickly becoming Lucozade Energy’s most popular flavour in the independent and symbols channel, after our core Orange and Original variants. We listened to shoppers and have added Apple Blast to our range permanently to help drive further sales for wholesalers and their retail customers.”

LRS is committed to backing Britain’s wholesalers, says Matt: “It’s important to me that we are known as a company that truly supports the wholesale trade, offering good margins on drinks that have a great heritage and a bright future. We’re always looking for new ways to reward our loyal customers – last year, for example, we gave away £60,000 in cash as part of an exclusive retailer competition on the shrink-wraps of our most popular SKUs! We’re proud that Bestway recognised our work in wholesale recently at its Bestway Performance Awards, presenting us with the Most Improved Supplier award.”