Vimto Soft drink sales ‘vroom-ing’ ahead

After Vimto’s brand value jumped £10m in a year and with Vimto’s carbonates range outgrowing the market at 17.5%, brand owner Nichols plc is building on this success with a £3.5million investment and fizzing up its Vimto Remix range with some exciting new variants. Another part of Nichols’ portfolio, the bestselling Levi Roots Soft Drinks is spicing up its sales with new Exotic Kick, a flavoured carbonate with a kick of chilli. And there’s more in store, particularly in the wholesale and convenience sector. Becky Unwin, Senior Brand Manager at Vimto Soft Drinks, spoke to Wholesale Manager:

“The convenience sector is especially vital to us for capturing our target audience of 16-19-year-old impulse shoppers looking for exciting and refreshingly different soft drinks, and we work closely with wholesalers to ensure we get our product formats, pricing and promotions spot on. “We also collaborate with individual depots to provide incentives and create eye-catching displays and help independent retailers relay their fixtures and chillers effectively. We really appreciate the feedback we get, as we’re always looking for ways to boost their ranges and maximise their sales.”

The impulse channel currently makes up roughly a third of Vimto UK’s packaged business. Over the past five years sales here have continued to grow and are up an impressive +11.7% annually:

“The impulse sector really is a crucial one for the brand and continues to be a big focus. Over the past few years we’ve created a number of specific formats and PMPs exclusively for the channel. Vimto is available in squash, carbonated and still variants with original and No Added Sugar, providing refreshment whatever the occasion and need. Not only are we in one in four UK households, we’re now the nation’s tenth most chosen drink brand1, no mean feat in such a competitive market!”

Vimto is significantly outperforming the wider soft drinks market too, growing twice as fast as the category with year on year growth of +14.1% value and +17% volume. Its brand value recently hit a record high of £89.9 million – a lot of which can be attributed to its ever-growing squash sales, explains Becky:

“As the UK’s second biggest, and fastest growing major squash brand, squash continues to make up the majority of our sales. This well-loved product is a firm favourite with families nationwide, thanks to our deliciously different recipe.”

Another important product group, Vimto’s Ready to Drink products, which are popular with teens and young people in particular, also continue to perform strongly. Available in a 500ml sports cap format, perfect for on the go enjoyment, Vimto’s RTDs are currently up +23%, reflecting the rise in demand for instant refreshment.

Flavoured carbonates are another key part of Vimto’s offering, currently growing by +17.5%. “Their strong performance is why we fizzed up the category by introducing a carbonated variant of Vimto Remix Raspberry Orange and Passionfruit earlier this year,” says Becky.

Flavoured water is also experiencing a great amount of innovation and interesting flavour combinations, reflected in various suppliers’ recent NPD. “It’s led our innovation, too. We ventured into the water category with Vim2o, taking the demand for flavoured water” – which, she points out, is growing at 6.8% – “and the desire for a healthier hydration, which is also driving ordinary water sales, to create a water product infused with the refreshingly different taste of Vimto.”

Vim2o contains No Added Sugar, and is aimed at health-conscious people who don’t like the taste of plain water but want to make sure that they and their children stay hydrated throughout the day without compromising on taste.

Talking of health-conscious consumers, Becky says the healthy hydration trend is showing absolutely no sign of stopping: “The sector hasn’t just been impacted by the sugar levy; people are looking for healthier options and paying more attention to what’s in their food and drinks.”

Vimto’s No Added Sugar range reflects the unique taste of Vimto, says Becky: “We’ve made sure it tastes just as good as the original so that consumers aren’t losing out by choosing a ‘NAS’ product.”

As a result, sales of Vimto No Added Sugar are growing a massive +22%, contributing to half of all Vimto sales. Going back to carbonates, Becky says Vimto Remix was an immediate success for Nichols when they brought it out in 2016. She brings the story up to date:

“Vimto Remix successfully mixed up both the category and consumers’ taste buds when it launched, and has been a phenomenal success for us since, meeting consumer demand for new experiences and flavour combinations. The sub-brand consists of three popular flavours: the original Mango, Strawberry & Pineapple; Raspberry, Orange and Passionfruit, and most recently Watermelon, Strawberry & Peach. We also have some delicious new flavour combinations ready to launch in 2020, so watch this space!”

Vimto Remix is now worth an impressive £9.7m, says Becky, having grown +36% in the last 12 months: “As appetite for adventurous drinks with exotic flavours continues to grow, Vimto Remix is satisfying that thirst in a healthier way.”

An important part of Vimto’s range, Levi Roots Soft Drinks brings interesting flavour combinations together with an authentic twist, says Becky:

“We encourage retailers to look beyond the traditional international food offerings and incorporate world flavours into the soft drinks chiller too. The flavoured carbonates market is growing at +11.9% currently, an area that retailers can’t afford to ignore as shoppers are increasingly looking for more variety and exciting taste sensations.”

Vimto recently brought out Levi Roots Exotic Kick, a flavoured carbonate with a kick of chilli. Demand is ‘hotting up’ for drinks with spices, says Becky:

“We’ve certainly spiced up the flavoured carbs category with this one! Exotic Kick combines the addictive chili kick with the tropical flavours of mango and coconut. When developing this product, we conducted extensive consumer research that revealed spicy drinks would be a major trend. We’re predicting an explosion of brands tapping into the spice trend, as we’ve already seen these flavours crossing into other categories, such as alcoholic drinks and chocolate.”

Spicy or otherwise, taste remains at the forefront of the soft drinks category, says Becky and shoppers are increasingly looking for more variety in soft drinks chillers:

“Vimto’s portfolio is built around taste, not only with our unique recipe, but our Vimto Remix and Levi Roots sub brands too. Consumers are seeking to be wowed by unusual flavour sensations and increasingly looking towards different formats, with many opting for craft soft drinks and premium offerings to recreate bar and restaurant standard drinks at home.”

Becky sees Food to Go and Big Night In as the two biggest opportunities for the UK wholesale and convenience industry in terms of squash, carbonates and RTD juices sales:

“I don’t need to tell you how important the Food to Go market is for the future of stores. Retailers know that with people now leading busier lives, time-poor customers are looking for quick and convenient food and drink to consume on the go, especially around peak times such as breakfast and lunch. Soft drinks are a key part of the grab and go market and we’re encouraging retailers to make soft drinks visible, front and centre of refrigerators, alongside quick and easy food to go options to capture these sales.

“The Big Night In has become a great British tradition in recent years and with Brexit causing a certain level of uncertainty, people are increasingly avoiding eating and drinking out of home. As a result, we expect the Big Night In occasion only to continue growing in popularity. The rise in entertaining at home presents a huge opportunity for retailers. It’s more important than ever to have a range of sharing formats or soft drinks which can be used as mixers too.”

Becky is full of positivity about the recent structural changes in the wholesale industry, saying they present challenges, but also opportunities: “One thing we know for certain is that change is inevitable. We’ll continue to work closely with our wholesale partners and evolve to the changing landscape. Change is something we’ve managed successfully over the past 110 years, and will continue to face for the next 110 years and more.”

Nichols have been actively helping wholesalers grow their sales in the past 12 months, says Becky: “As part of our ‘I See Vimto in You’ campaign we’ve engaged retailers in depot, offering incentives such as competitions to win tech prizes. We’ve also offered a free case of the Vimto 500ml range for those purchasing the qualifying amount of cases in selected wholesalers too.”

In terms of above the line activity, Becky says it’s been a huge summer for Vimto, who have invested £3.5million in their biggest and best marketing campaign yet: “An evolution of ‘I See Vimto in You’, we’ve ensured an always on approach throughout the year, just like our teen audience. Our disruptive creative celebrates Vimto as the distinctive and refreshingly different soft drink. As well as personalised advertising for VOD and cinema, our TV advert which premiered during ITV’s Love Island, has returned to screens and we have brand-new radio ads.

“Our award-winning 2018 campaign saw record breaking results, with engagement levels more than double the industry standard and brand advocacy growing by +9%2. By extending the campaign further to explore new channels we’re hoping to reach even more people and build on the record sales of Vimto in 2018, where our brand value jumped a staggering £10m in just 12 months.”

Price Marked Packs are another key part of Vimto’s marketing mix, says Becky:

“We’ve seen how important PMPs are in building trust between retailers and their shoppers in the sector, and ultimately in driving sales. The demand for PMP formats remains strong, as shoppers desire much needed value. For retailers they help increase impulse purchases, encourage repeat custom and ultimately drive stock through more quickly. We introduced Levi Roots Exotic Kick exclusively as a £1 PMP for the wholesale and convenience sector, it’s a tried and tested formula for us.”

Finally, in the run up to Christmas, Becky says the activity will be focused on spreading the word about Hot Vimto: “Vimto No Added Sugar Squash really comes into its own during the winter months, especially over the Christmas season. Hot Vimto, a simple twist on the classic drink, is ideal for snuggling up in front of festive TV and enjoying with family. Drinking Vimto hot really amplifies its unique flavour blend of fruits and our secret recipe of herbs and spices – and it provides a dose of Vitamin C too!”