The functional wellness drinks segment is presenting the convenience channel with a healthy £27m opportunity this year, equating to an additional £812 per store, according to the latest Britvic Soft Drinks Review. At a time when the pandemic has shone a light on health and wellness for many, 37% of people are now positively interested in premium soft drinks with added benefits.

Owing to changing shopper behaviour during the pandemic, categories traditionally associated with food to go were heavily impacted – but a focus on wellness as restrictions continue to ease is set to help retailers regain sales in this area of soft drinks. While overall the category experienced value and volume declines in total convenience last year, take home, larger format soft drinks were one of the channel’s outstanding performers. Reaching a third of soft drinks sales and growing 19% (+£117.9m), the performance cements 2020 as a year of two halves for the category.

While healthier alternatives such as low and no sugar options have been gaining ground for some time, the pandemic has shone a light on health and wellness for many. 64% of consumers are prioritising health and seeking to integrate wellbeing into nearly all aspects of their lives, including food and drink.

Phil Sanders, out of home commercial director at Britvic comments: “After the challenges retailers have faced in the past year, we’re dedicated to support our customers as they navigate changing shopper needs, and that includes looking ahead and making them aware of growing soft drink trends. The functional wellness market is currently worth an impressive £240.1m, and what’s more, shoppers are willing to pay more than double the average price for premium soft drinks with added benefits than a soft drink or 34% more than the average single serve, which is already priced at a premium.

“It’s vital that retailers are adapting their ranges accordingly to take advantage of this shift in consumer demand. Purdey’s, the UK’s leading sparkling vitality brand, is perfectly placed to lead the wellness soft drinks category. Made with naturally sourced ingredients – real fruit juice, boosted by botanicals and energising B vitamins – it offers a no added sugar energy lift, something we know shoppers are on the lookout for.”

The pandemic changed consumers’ lives unimaginably and impacted shopping habits in ways that could never have been imagined or forecasted. As millions switched to working from home, lunchtime trade suffered. At the peak of the pandemic in  April 2020, 60% of convenience shoppers were working from home, relying on home kitchens for meals. This move created a change in dynamic for shopper missions, with planned top up shops becoming more important at the expense of on-the-go food and drink.

Sanders continues: “As supermarkets and online adapted to increased demand in the first lockdown, discounters and local convenience stores all benefited. Shopping habits shifted sharply from little and often, to less frequent, bigger baskets, with planned top up missions growing in importance from 18% in 2019, to 24% by October 2020 – indicating consistency of new shopper habits even after the initial period of lockdown. Good news for retailers who have adapted their stores and offerings to cater to the needs of local communities.”

The top up mission accelerated its position as the number one reason to visit a convenience store and the share of planned top ups grew. Unsurprisingly, as the pandemic set in, out of home soft drinks declined as fewer shoppers (-23%) bought less often (-12%).

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