As lockdown measures begin to ease in the coming weeks, footfall to local stores is set to increase – which will bring increased demand for smaller formats, as people look for refreshment on-the-go.

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has reduced the recommended price points for its range of price-marked packs (PMPs) across its colas portfolio.

To help catch shoppers’ eyes at the front of the store, 500ml bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar – including cherry and vanilla flavours – now come in a £1 PMP, as do Diet Coke Sublime Lime and Diet Coke Twisted Strawberry.

1.75l bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar – including the popular cherry and vanilla-flavoured variants – and Diet Coke are now available in a £1.75 PMP, and 1.5l bottles of Coca-Cola Original Taste and Coca-Cola Cherry are now available in a £1.95 PMP, enabling retailers to take advantage of the growing trend towards consumption within the home.

Sales of larger pack formats have increased in recent weeks, as shoppers want volume and good value for money, when buying drinks to enjoy at home instead of on-the-go.

Alison Adderley, Field Sales Director at CCEP, said: “Since the country went into lockdown, consumer behaviour has been evolving. Whilst we all hope things go back to normal as soon and as safely as possible, we can be pretty certain of some long-term changes in the way people shop, which suppliers and retailers must adapt to.”

Coca-Cola original taste is the number one soft drink in GB, Coca-Cola Cherry is the biggest-selling Cherry Cola in GB and flavoured light colas continue to grow (Nielsen).

“By making these much-loved drinks available in an even more appealing PMP, we’re helping retailers respond to a number of key shopper demands,” Adderley continues.

Shoppers are buying into snacking and treating categories more often (HIM), and growing numbers of consumers are looking to save money in the months ahead (IGD). PMPs offer visible value, reassuring shoppers that they can get the products they want, without being overcharged (HIM). In fact, PMPs account for over 60% of total soft drink sales in independent and symbol convenience stores (Nielsen).

“While the ‘big shop’ made a comeback in early March, in line with government guidance that states consumers should limit their shopping trips, top up missions are now returning, with the importance of a handy location being the top store choice driver,” says Adderley.

Sustainability is a trend among the majority of industries today, as the public becomes more focused on the climate emergency and their impact on the environment. As a result, soft drinks brands are focusing their attention on concepts such as zero-waste cocktails, recyclable/biodegradable packaging and vegan-friendly drinks.

“Retailers need to market their virtues effectively by clearly marking drinks to entice shoppers and to stand out from the crowd,” says Ian Patefield, GB Wholesale Director at Britvic. “This way eco-conscious shoppers can make more easily informed decisions. Wholesalers have a role to play in terms of ‘vetting’ suppliers and offering customers the best possible solutions to pass onto consumers. Within the supply chain, each and every stakeholder has a role to play, whether that is sustainable delivery solutions or supplying products that are fully recyclable.”

“This summer typical trends and stats go out the window given the impact of coronavirus,” says Matt Gouldsmith – Channel Director, Wholesale at Lucozade Ribena Suntory. “Wholesalers should pay close attention to the needs of their customers’ shoppers and adapt their soft drinks range accordingly so retailers can support their communities.”

This is particularly clear when it comes to multipack and drink-later formats; Britvic has seen strong growth of 20% (IRI) in Lucozade Energy’s drink-later portfolio, including 1L bottles and multipacks. In fact, the top three 1L SKUs represent 21% (IRI) of the brand’s total sales, meaning it’s increasingly important that retailers have a larger format offering in-store for this demand.

“A spike in sales can normally be expected at this time of year given the weather and increased summer events and when the sun comes out this can be boosted even further,” adds Gouldsmith. “This isn’t a typical summer though.”

People are still exercising and hydration in the warm weather remains important. Usually we’d see soft drink sales increase by +1.6% for every 1-degree temperature change (IRI). This makes it hugely important for wholesalers to have drink-later soft drinks ranges ready for consumers enjoying the warmer weather in their gardens.

Ongoing trends that will likely continue throughout the category irrespective of the radical changes brought on by coronavirus are lower-sugar drinks and new flavours.

Shoppers’ spending on no- and low-sugar drinks has increased by 33% and 29% respectively. In fact, there is now a higher volume of zero sugar drinks bought than regular (IRI), showing just how important this segment of the market is for retailers preparing their summer range. “Having the right range will drive sales from those looking for healthier soft drink options,” suggests Gouldsmith. “This means retailers should ensure their chillers are stocked up on lower-sugar soft drinks such as Ribena Light and Lucozade Zero – now worth a combined £53.4M (IRI) – to capitalise on the ongoing trend towards lower-sugar choices.”

Britvic has invested in its brands to help its customers offer their shoppers drinks in line with this trend. The company’s core brands are available in very low or zero-sugar alternatives in the form of Lucozade Zero, Ribena Light and Lucozade Sport Low Cal to offer consumers a full range of choice.

In terms of flavours, the Lucozade Energy flavours range has already contributed a significant £66.8M (IRI) worth of sales to the energy category, showing just how important it is for retailers to offer a diverse selection of flavours. Lucozade Energy is growing +8.3%, mainly driven by flavours which are in growth of +42% year on year (Kantar). On top of this, 23.8% of Lucozade Energy drink-later shoppers only buy flavours (Kantar), showing how stocking a full range of formats can help retailers maximise the opportunity of the flavours trend. Two of the brand’s latest launches have been successful in building on this trend, with Lucozade Energy Apple Blast and Lucozade Energy Watermelon and Strawberry Cooler now worth over £22M combined (IRI).

“Due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, this summer will see shopper missions in the convenience channel shift from impulse to top-up as the number of ‘Big Night In’ occasions rise,” adds Gouldsmith. Britvic has increased the availability of its drink-later and multipack formats in depots as a response, advising retailers to review their sales data and stock up on bestsellers from the core range.

“The small changes retailers make this summer will help to secure new loyal customers in the future,” suggests Gouldsmith.” Retailers can demonstrate a commitment to looking after their local customers by enforcing social-distancing guidelines and stocking the drink-later formats the public is after.”

Engaging with customers and offering a bespoke, personal touch is crucial; new customers will continue to return if they perceive their local store and its products to be of good value to the community. Retailers should use online and digital platforms to quickly and easily drive excitement and awareness of NPD with their regular shoppers, while also taking advantage of the content put out by their peers and suppliers.

“In terms of growth drivers, it’s important to remember shoppers want excitement when looking for a soft drink,” adds Gouldsmith. “We are investing in ambitious innovations across our portfolio of leading brands to drive sales for retailers this summer and beyond.”

Lucozade, the UK’s biggest sport & energy drink brand (IRI), has tapped into this trend with the recent launch of a new sub-brand. Sweetened with Stevia, and with 4.3g sugar per 100ml, Lucozade Revive is designed to offer a different type of energy. It’s not a boost or a buzz, it’s a naturally inspired uplift that makes drinkers feel revitalised and back in the groove. Revive has natural fruit flavours, no artificial colours, and vitamins B3, B5, B6 and B12 to help reduce tiredness.

Lucozade Energy has also introduced a cool new addition to its £66.8M (IRI) flavours range ahead of the summer season. Lucozade Energy Citrus Chill, a new lemon & lime flavour, is available in 380ml PMP and standard packs. It joins the market-leading range of Lucozade Energy flavours and will build on the launches of Lucozade Energy Apple Blast and Lucozade Energy Watermelon & Strawberry Cooler, the latter of which delivered sales of more than £2.1M (IRI) in its first six months on shelf.

Lucozade Sport has launched a ‘Keep Us Moving’ initiative to support the nation’s fitness coaches, instructors and personal trainers by incentivising them to help the nation to stay active during the coronavirus outbreak. The initiative will give fitness experts across the country the opportunity to host online classes through Lucozade Sport’s Instagram TV channel and YouTube channel. The classes will be available for free and all trainers will be paid for each piece of content used by the channel in return for their expertise, with an initial £100,000 fund up for grabs.

Last summer was also huge for Lucozade Sport, with a raft of activity which kicked off with the new Lucozade Sport Fruit Punch, featuring two-time World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua, driving sales of almost £8.7M (IRI) since its launch in March last year – 55% of which was incremental to the sports & energy category.

Simon Gray, Founder and Managing Director of Boost Drinks, comments: “With the UK market worth £1.7 billion (IRI), it makes soft drinks a top three category for most independent retailers.”

Split between the categories of stimulation, sport and glucose the sector grew by 2.7% value sales in 2019 (IRI).

“The demand for healthier alternatives has had a huge impact on the energy drinks market and this summer we predict it will continue to do so,” adds Gray.

With 13% of energy sales being Sugar Free, growing 35% YOY, no-and low-sugar drinks are now a must-stock to maximise growth opportunities – especially during the key summer months.

To cater for this trend, Boost launched its own sugar-free range. Boost also reformulated its recipe and reduced the amount of sugar across its entire energy range.

“We’ve focused on maintaining the same delicious taste and brilliant value that Boost has built its reputation on,” says Gray.

Boost’s sugar-free variants are particularly popular with the younger generation and amongst 18-30-year olds, low sugar content is the most important factor when choosing a soft drink, with 86% of young people believing that sugar is bad for their health.

“This summer is going to be very different from the one we all predicted,” Gray continues. “Although it won’t be the ‘summer of sport’ we expected, we still see huge opportunities for wholesalers to ensure they’re increasing soft drink sales.”

“We are lucky that our entire range enjoyed a hugely successful summer last year with a lot of the sales being driven by energy and we envisage the same happening again this year,” adds Gray. “When the sun is shining, and the weather is warm again consumers will be looking to quench their thirst with a refreshing soft drink.”

Boost is working closely with wholesalers to make sure it can keep distribution high and ensure stock will still be on shelf throughout this key period.

“With more people at home, many are using their down time to get fit and take part in exercise and as the weather continues to get warmer, we expect to see this trend grow,” says Gray.

The Boost sport range offers great value by keeping people hydrated in the hot weather without breaking the bank. Boost Sport continues to be a favourite amongst consumers as it is the fastest growing sports drink in the sector (IRI).

Another area expected to perform well is out of home hot and cold coffee. To cater for the growing RTD coffee market, in March this year Boost launched two new, chilled ready to drink coffee SKUs – ‘Silky Smooth Caffe Latte’ and ’Full Bodied Double Espresso with Milk’.

This summer promises to be another great year for RTD coffee. The category is already one of the fastest growing in the soft drinks market so offering a large range of RTD coffee products at all price points is really important for wholesalers.

Out of home hot and cold coffee sales are up 54% in the last year and the category is the fastest growing functional drinks category with a growth of 27% (British Coffee Association). It is already worth over £110 million and RTD coffee drinks are likely to be more popular than ever this summer with 66% of UK 18-24 year-old coffee drinkers seeing chilled coffee as a good alternative to sugary drinks (Mintel).

“At Boost we’ve created our RTD coffee, offering a product that tastes great, is fantastic quality and comes from a brand that consumers can trust,” comments Gray. “We would always recommend stocking multiple brands from each range across different price points especially in PMP packs. Our new RTD coffee offering is available in a £1 PMP format so you can ensure you’re offering your customers a trustworthy option at an affordable price.”

Across energy there is a real demand for new and exciting flavours. Boost has continually added new variants to its energy range over the years to ensure it is tapping into trends and providing retailers and wholesalers with something new to put on the shelf.

“We advise them to look at offering a mix of new flavours next to the consumer favourites such as Boost Energy Original and Boost Energy Original Sugar Free,” adds Gray.

The first half of 2020 saw the introduction of Boost Energy Red Berry in a 500ml format to the UK mainland. A flavour explosion of mixed berries, Red Berry is already performing well just over the sea, with it currently being the number one selling soft drink flavour in Northern Ireland (IRI). Boost introduced a 250ml can to the UK mainland in 2018. Red Berry 500ml has already sold 150k cases in Northern Ireland since it launched and 120k cases of 250ml have been sold in Great Britain since March 2019. Berry flavours continue to perform really strongly across the category at +16% (IRI).

Tom Clark, Director of Wig Wig Spring Water, comments: “We are finding consumers are concerned about the recyclablality of bottles either glass or pet. Certain consumers are also looking at water quality in terms of minerals present, Wig wig spring water is high in calcium and has one of the highest levals of magnesium of all bottled water.”

Since lockdown Wig Wig is finding 500ml pet are selling well and shortly the company will be offering a 1.5 litre pet bottle in still and sparkling.

In terms of marketing for wholesalers Wig Wig can offer banners and flags for in store promotion.

Wig Wig is also targeting all bottles to be 50% rpet by 2022.

“Environmental sustainability is a key goal, Wig Wig spring water is drawn from our farmland so we can be sure no damaging practices go on,” adds Clark.

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