Soft drinks are one of the biggest opportunities for retailers throughout summer, worth £12.3bn and growing by 8% YoY in a challenging economic market (Circana).

The key driver in soft drinks is taste. Shoppers are looking for products packed with flavour and unique flavour combinations continue to win sales.

Flavour innovation added £29m to the category last year (Circana).

“Brands are still delivering around 97% of sales (Circana), and with around 74 new flavours introduced to the market in the last year, retailers need to make sure that they’re focusing on trusted and popular brands to make the most of the opportunity,” comments Jonathan Kemp, Commercial Director, AG Barr.

As health and wellbeing also continue to influence purchasing decisions, drinking more water is the No. 1 choice for UK consumers who want to live a healthier lifestyle (IGD). This has led to an increased demand for lower calorie products and flavoured water, which is currently growing ahead of the total water category (IRI).

Taste is still the top consideration for soft drinks shoppers and many people are now looking to enjoy bigger, bolder flavours that are different from the norm. Last month, Rubicon Spring launched a Pink Grapefruit Blood Orange flavour to meet those needs.

Rubicon Spring has been the No. 1 flavoured sparkling water five years in a row (IRI), it is six times bigger than its nearest branded competitor and growing penetration 5x faster than the category itself (IRI). This latest addition will be building on that momentum this summer.

“Limited edition flavours are another guaranteed sales driver, as they generate excitement and engagement with shoppers across all demographics,” adds Kemp. “The limited aspect means that shoppers can’t wait to grab it whilst they can, and we know that seeing something different to the usual range always creates a distinct buzz around the fixture.”

In March, IRN-BRU XTRA rolled out two new limited-edition flavours, Raspberry Ripple and Wild Berry Slush. Backed by a high impact media plan that is aiming to reach 93% of 16-24s, the bold new flavours come with vibrant pack designs that are attracting shoppers’ attention in the chiller.

This launch follows the success of Ice Cream and Tropical limited editions last summer, which delivered £29 million in sales to the category (Circana) and led to a 30% uplift in the core IRN-BRU XTRA variant (Circana).

Adrian Hipkiss, Commercial Director at Boost Drinks, comments: “The overall UK soft drinks market remains on an upward trajectory and has surpassed £12bn (Circana) in value, solidifying its position as one of the top three categories in Convenience. The market as a whole is experiencing robust growth, with a year-on-year increase of +8% (Circana). Energy Stimulation and Sports Drinks are leading the growth trend across various channels, contributing £1bn (Circana) to the market and driving momentum.”

Following a period of uncertainty, 2024 will bring a more optimistic outlook. External long-term effects indicate a continuation of cautious behaviour, yet there is clear growth in the soft drinks category, albeit gradual. Various factors, including external economic pressures, shifting consumer habits, and industry-wide changes, will influence the category’s trajectory in 2024.

With rising household incomes, consumers have more discretionary spending power, offering greater financial flexibility. However, spending will remain deliberate, necessitating alignment with consumer preferences in pricing. Brand promotions, occasions, and new product development are set to be stand out drivers in the category.

“2024 will see further developments in multi-channel retailing as discerning consumers prompt retailers to diversify their offerings,” adds Hipkiss. “Convenience expansion and enhancements will also be prevalent, driven by consumers’ choice to explore different shopping avenues, creating greater competition across all channels.”

Following a period of reactive measures, both the industry and consumers will shift focus towards long-term planning and sustainability priorities again. Emphasis on sustainability priorities, technological advancement and investment will be a priority for brands within the category.

Learnings from recent years will see the category being prepared to act quickly and shoppers remaining cautious. Ensuring resilient supply chains, proactive readiness, and proactive anticipation of issues will be pivotal for brands and convenience alike. As consumer confidence gradually grows, apprehension towards spending will diminish, filling the category with renewed vigour.

“Demand is on the rise for drinks that incorporate natural ingredients, provenance and nutritional benefits (Mintel), as consumers increasingly look for added health benefits from the products they choose,” says Hipkiss. “For instance, Rio, with its blend of five fruit flavours and vitamin C sources (Circana), ranks among the top 5 SKUs in Fruit Carbonates, illustrating this trend. As consumer preferences continue shifting towards healthier options, it’s crucial for retailers to offer a product range that aligns with this demand.”

Moreover, consumers are increasingly focused on adding beneficial elements to their diets rather than eliminating them (IGD). This year, shoppers showed a reluctance to give up items like meat or alcohol and instead opted to incorporate health-enhancing additions. As attention returns to longer-term concerns, such as health and well-being, it’s essential to recognise that this shift isn’t solely about reduction; products boasting added benefits and promoting movement and exercise also resonate with consumers.

“Furthermore, consumers are seeking lower-sugar alternatives as part of their health-conscious choices,” claims Hipkiss. “Boost Drinks addresses this demand by providing three innovative Sugar-Free options in their stimulation range, offering customers greater choice and flexibility.”

Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), comments: “With soft drinks now worth more than £12.5bn in retail (Nielsen), retailers should focus on stocking soft drinks in key categories such as colas, carbonates and mixers.

“Specifically, retailers should focus on the most popular brands within these categories – like Coca-Cola™, the no.1 soft drinks brand in retail (Nielsen), led by Coca-Cola Zero Sugar (the fastest growing major cola brand in retail by value and volume, Nielsen), along with Fanta and Dr Pepper, the number one and number two flavoured carbonates brands in retail by value (Nielsen). Schweppes should be a must stock too considering it is sold in retail more than any other mixer brand (Nielsen).”

“Retailers should also keep an eye out for the latest launches, including the newest addition to our Coca-Cola range – Coca-Cola Original Taste Lemon and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Lemon, combining the iconic Coca-Cola taste with a zesty citrus kick.

“Retailers should also be looking to tap into the opportunities in fast-growing categories like RTD coffee and energy.”

The ready-to-drink (RTD) chilled coffee sector has become an established part of the soft drinks category. Costa Coffee’s RTD range is up 24% in value in convenience over the past year (Nielsen). This success can be put down to the widespread popularity of the Costa Coffee brand, the nation’s favourite coffee shop for the last 14 years (Allegra).

RTD chilled coffee is incredibly diverse. Featuring Lattes, Flat Whites and Frappés, Costa’s range caters to a broad variety of different tastes and occasions, offering shoppers a choice of low, medium and high intensity caffeine options as well as different coffee flavours and levels of sweetness.

At the beginning of the year, CCEP launched PMP versions of the Costa Coffee Latte and Caramel Latte RTD ranges, offering a unique selling point exclusive to convenience retailers to help enhance their competitive edge when it comes to the RTD chilled coffee segment.

Energy drinks continue to increase in popularity, now worth £1.95bn (Nielsen) in GB and growing, thanks to the arrival of new flavours, functionality and zero sugar options.

“With innovation key to increasing sales, retailers must stock up on the latest launches that are going to capture consumers’ attention,” adds Burgess. “Monster is leading the way when it comes to innovation in energy – 60% of NPD energy drink sales over the last year have come from the Monster brand (NIQ).”

In 2024 CCEP added two new flavours to its line-up – Monster Reserve Orange Dreamsicle and Monster Juiced Bad Apple.

“Despite the emergence of new innovations, traditional energy drinks still remain popular, with Monster Original remaining our flagship offering, worth £126.6m in retail (Nielsen). “This underscores the importance of maintaining a robust core product range alongside stocking new launches.”

Unitas, the UK’s leading independent wholesaler group, is equipping convenience retailers with summer soft drinks category advice from its Plan for Profit Focus On guide.

Available to download on Plan for Profit, and in print at Unitas member depots, the 16-page guide includes market and shopper trends, ranging advice and planograms.

The soft drinks market is worth more than £2 billion and experiencing 9.4% growth, which is outperforming the total market (Nielsen IQ). The summer period is especially crucial for soft drinks, with sales rising by 12% during this season compared to the beginning of the year (Nielsen IQ). Furthermore, the category holds the largest share in impulse, with 1 in 2 impulse purchases being a soft drink (SmartView Convenience/TWC).

Mark Langohr, Category Controller – Plan for Profit, at Unitas said: “Accounting for 40% of total annual sales, summer presents a key occasion for driving growth within the category. Prepare yourself for this essential season with the help of our expert advice.

“Throughout this issue we’ll focus on key growth factors, so you can better understand what’s influencing your shoppers and meet their needs.

“The ‘Focus On’ guides by Plan for Profit are specifically designed for the independent retailer. Each guide contains expert product and category insight to help you make the most of opportunities in store and meet the needs of your customers.”

99% of households within the UK consistently purchase soft drinks (Kantar). The category is also the leading driver of footfall within symbols & independents, responsible for roughly a third (Lumina). 70% of all sales are single-serve drinks, which is growing faster than multipacks (+14% vs. +4%, Nielsen). Meanwhile, sports & energy is worth more than £800m and accounts for 1 in 2 single serve drinks sold (Nielsen).

“The category provides an opportunity for retailers to tap into a flourishing market, with sales growing by £210 million in the past year (Nielsen),” adds Langohr. “With 75% of shoppers picking up soft drinks each week (Kantar), the category also holds immense importance for stores. By ensuring a well-stocked selection, retailers are not just meeting a demand – they’re becoming a reliable go-to for customers.”

A Red Bull spokesperson comments: “It has been an extremely strong year for Soft Drinks, with Sports & Energy a key driver of category growth. Although shoppers are feeling the effects of inflation within the wider grocery market, this hasn’t stopped them from getting out and about within the convenience channel. We saw shoppers making more trips out-of-home to buy Soft Drinks last year, with trip frequency +7% (Kantar) and as a result Soft Drinks remains in strong growth within Independents and Symbols stores, adding an additional +£213 million vs last year (Nielsen). Sports & Energy has been a key part of this, accounting for 68% of all growth and adding +£144 million to the category (Nielsen).”

In addition to more trips, there has been an increase in shoppers buying Energy Drinks through Independents & Symbols. Last year 3 million shoppers purchased an Energy Drink in the channel (+25% vs last year, Kantar), making it a key category to focus on in 2024.

Thanks to ongoing innovation within the category, particularly around flavours, a large part of this growth has come from an influx of new shoppers, with Sports & Energy now bought by 27 million shoppers, which is +4m vs 2YA (Kantar).

Sports and Energy has been the fastest growing category of the last 12 months, adding an additional +£411m to Soft Drinks and contributing 47% of all category value growth (Nielsen). In Symbols and Independent stores, Sports and Energy is already the #1 Soft Drink category, accounting for 40% of all value sales and growing share (+3pts vs last year, Nielsen).

This trend is also playing out within the wider market, and in the last year there were weeks where Sports & Energy over-took Colas as the #1 category in value share within the total market (Nielsen). Within this, Energy has been a key player, now accounting for 19% of all Soft Drink value (+2pts in share vs 2 years ago) and growth is showing no signs of slowing, so this trend is expected to continue into 2024 (Nielsen). Innovation has been vital to the success of Energy Drinks growth this year, with particular engagement around new flavours, which has helped broaden the category’s appeal to new groups of shoppers, where taste was previously a barrier.

As a result, the demand for Flavoured Energy Drinks has never been stronger, acting as an entry point for consumers. Selling on average +38% more units per store vs 2 years ago (Nielsen), and with 83% of Energy Drink consumers wanting to buy across a variety of flavours (Appinio), the category has been tapping into this demand with new and exciting options. Last year 71% of shoppers that were new to Energy Drinks bought a flavoured product, so it is a key part of the category to drive penetration (Kantar).

Aiming to replicate the success of the Blue Edition, Red Bull has even more flavour innovation planned for 2024. The first of these, launched last month, is Red Bull Summer Edition Curuba Elderflower, which offers the perfect taste blend of exotic curuba, rounded off with floral notes of elderflower to excite shoppers and drive trial.

Boasting a flavour profile described as exotic, refreshing, and floral with hints of melon, pineapple and elderflower, the new Red Bull Summer Edition performed well in consumer testing with more than 2/3 of Energy Drink buyers say they would likely purchase a Curuba & Elderflower flavoured Energy Drink (Appinio).

Red Bull is a driving force behind flavours in the market and NPD has been largely incremental, with 45% of shoppers that bought into the flavoured Editions range being new to the brand (Kantar). Editions have recruited shoppers fast, with 2.8 million buying the brand, growing seven-fold in just 2 years (Kantar). This was reinforced last year, by the launch of the brand’s most successful NPD yet: The Summer Edition with the taste of Juneberry, which sold 9.4 million 250ml cans (Nielsen), and has now been made permanent in the range as The Blue Edition.

Nigel McNally, Managing Director of newly launched sustainable bottled water brand NEO WTR, comments: “With the summer approaching quickly, the focus for wholesalers must be to optimise the water bottle brands and products that retailers and customers are increasingly focused on.”

In 2022, the UK bottled water market was valued at £2.07 billion (Statista) and is projected to maintain a steady growth trajectory over the next fifteen years. The demand for bottled water is primarily propelled by its convenience and portability, as well as concerns regarding the safety of tap water. However, the market expansion faces challenges due to environmental issues stemming from plastic waste pollution.

Rising disposable incomes and heightened consumer focus on health are two of the factors that have contributed to the increasing preference for bottled water, particularly among health-conscious individuals.

“It is vital for wholesalers to identify target markets by understanding the demographics and preferences of target retail customers,” adds McNally. “This can then help them streamline their marketing efforts, enhance customer engagement, and maximise sales potential.

“Further to that, identifying target markets fosters deeper relationships with retailers by providing them with products that resonate with their customer base, ultimately leading to increased loyalty and repeat business. One of the clear trends that the water bottle industry, and subsequently retailers, are seeing now is the huge rise of eco-conscious consumers who prefer reusable and environmentally friendly options.”

As such, producers are increasingly turning to recycled PET and plant-based materials for packaging to address concerns over plastic waste. This move towards eco-friendly packaging is anticipated to drive demand for bottled water, especially in developed regions like Europe and North America.

“For wholesalers, it is vital to offer a diverse range of on-the-go water bottle options, including different sizes, materials, designs, and price points to cater to diverse customer preferences,” says McNally.

There are also a swathe of new brands launching water in alternative packaging formats – in particular, the rise of aluminium canned water drinks has been notable, especially in the USA, a trend which is anticipated to be replicated here in the UK. Whilst aluminium is praised not only for its durability but also, crucially, its recyclability, there are also challenges in the prohibitively more expensive packaging format, the carbon emissions and in customers’ user experiences particularly around resealability.

“There’s no denying the important role soft drinks are playing in the convenience sector,” comments Ben Parker, Retail Commercial Director at Britvic. “But it’s crucial that retailers have a solid understanding of the fundamental reasons why people are buying soft drinks. Only then will we together be able to fully tap into the opportunities on offer through soft drinks and reap the rewards.”

Parker continues, “Take forecourts for instance, an area within convenience which is changing beyond recognition. Despite soft drinks driving significant growth within that sector, there are still a number of opportunities that are ripe for the taking for those in the know. Research shows, for example, that people are twice as likely to be looking for an energy boost in forecourts than they are when they visit outlets in the wider convenience retail sector (Lumina). Despite this, the number of shoppers who buy energy drinks from forecourts remains surprisingly low, with only 2.1% of forecourt shoppers currently buying them (Kantar). There’s an opportunity here for the taking.”

More broadly across convenience, stimulant energy delivered growth worth £181.5m last year (Circana). It was the second fastest growing sub-sector at 23.7%, behind sports drinks which grew at 64.6% and took fifth place in the list of best-selling subcategories in convenience (Circana). Stimulant energy remains number one (Circana), the appeal of these to attract more people and to encompass a greater variety of consumption occasions will deliver more growth. Championing sugar-free energy drinks, merchandising them in prime impulse spots in-store and linking with social media to engage consumers will also play a key role.

Parker comments “Demand for products perceived as being more natural or less processed is on the rise too. More than a third (34%) of people who do not consume energy drinks say there should be more natural alternatives available (Mintel). We see significant potential in homebound post-work journeys and evening consumption for more natural energy drinks containing less or no caffeine, such as our Purdey’s Natural Energy Drinks, a range of sparkling fruit juice blends enriched with botanicals and B vitamins. We’ve also worked to ensure our Rockstar Energy® core range is HFSS compliant, and we’ve introduced no sugar variants to help further broaden the appeal of stimulant energy.”

Another key trend highlighted in Britvic’s Soft Drinks Review 2024 is the growing proportion of people buying breakfast while travelling or commuting. In fact 10% of all food-to-go missions in forecourts are for breakfast (double the number in wider convenience, (Lumina). A fifth (20%) of food-to-go new product development launched in the first quarter of 2024 was for breakfast (Lumina). With bakery the number one category at breakfast (Lumina), Britvic suggests pairing items such as croissants with Jimmy’s Iced Coffee to maximise spend. Alternatively, Plenish Health Shots with added vitamins are a perfect accompaniment to fresh fruit, overnight oats and yoghurts.

“It’s promising to see more occasions opening up to the convenience retailers, such as breakfast. It’s now about capitalising on those opportunities, while futureproofing ranges to ensure there is a strong pull for the younger generation of shoppers coming into the channel,” comments Parker, “We’re continuing to support retailers in doing this with activities such as the 2023 collaboration between Rockstar Energy® and global rap superstar Stormzy, and this year’s partnership with Live Nation. Innovation and limited-edition flavours also go down well with this demographic and play a key role in generating excitement. Our limited-edition Tango flavours are a prime example of this. Last year we launched Tango Editions Sugar Free Paradise Punch to build on the success of 2022 Tango Editions Sugar Free Berry Peachy. This paid off, with Tango Editions Sugar Free Paradise Punch named the third biggest NPD of 2023, generating sales worth £4.2m for the convenience channel (Circana). This year’s launches, Tango Cherry Blast, Raspberry Blast and Tango Editions Mango, are set for similar success.”

While soft drinks are identified as the most bought impulse category in the channel (Circana), Britvic’s Soft Drinks Review 2024 also identifies that stores could be doing more to tap into ‘meal for tonight’ occasions. Forecourts specifically are under trading. According to Britvic, shoppers are paying on average £10.44 for a ‘meal for tonight’ with a soft drink but are currently only spending £7.18 on the same occasion in forecourts (Lumina). At a time when the category continues to display a great deal of resilience and relevance, soft drinks provide convenience stores of all formats and sizes with a breadth of opportunity to increase sales.

Milly Tuck, Senior Brand Manager, Cawston Press, comments: “Today’s consumers are willing to pay more for high-quality drinks (FMI), presenting opportunities to drive value into the category with sophisticated, premium soft drinks like ours at Cawston Press. Our range provides high-quality soft drinks made with pressed fruit, no added sugar, no sweeteners and not from concentrate, being the biggest brand in the ‘Not from Concentrate’ category, which is expected to witness remarkable growth in the coming years (Global NFC Juices Market Industry Insight Report 2023).”

According to Global Newswire’s report on the Global Fruit Juice Market (2022 to 2027), the consumption of soft drinks such as fizzy drinks is reducing due to ‘high sugar content, artificial colouring, phosphoric acid, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine’.

“This has created a greater shift in demand from carbonated drinks towards natural fruit juices (Global Newswire Global Fruit Juice Market 2022-2027) – with ‘Not From Concentrate’ leading the category, something wholesalers should consider when choosing their summer soft drinks range,” adds Tuck. “This coincides with research commissioned by Cawston Press via YouGov, which highlighted 60% of UK adults are concerned about the amount of sugar and sweeteners in fizzy drinks.”

Also, 63% would prefer if their drinks were made with more natural ingredients. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned people against the use of non-sugar sweeteners in 2023. Instead, WHO recommended consuming food with naturally occurring sugars such as fruit, or unsweetened food and beverages.

“At Cawston Press we take pride in standing firm on our core principles which haven’t changed since 1986, going against the standard practices in the industry,” says Tuck. “We believe this is why we stand the test of time and continue to grow every year, despite the increasing challenges the market is experiencing. This is all part of our No Jiggery Pokery promise: we create delicious drinks made from simple, real ingredients, using no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners, and are never from concentrate.”

Abigail Kelly, Head of Marketing and Insight at Crediton Dairy Ltd, comments: “Within the chilled coffee category, which continues to be in growth, there are several key trends driving the market.

“Across all categories, including chilled coffee, consumers are gravitating towards products that offer additional nutritional benefits and will actively seek out brands that deliver on this. A clear front-runner here is Protein, which is why this year Arctic Coffee is meeting this demand for consumers by bringing to market Hi Protein Caramel Latte, a delicious, chilled caramel latte with 15g Protein.”

Across the board, brands are continuously introducing new flavours, variants and product formulations to cater to evolving consumer preferences and to differentiate themselves in the market, making it an exciting category for the consumer.

In July 2023, Arctic Coffee launched its Limited Edition range – which included Vanilla and Toffee Nut flavours – and this will continue throughout 2024.

There is also innovation on pack sizing, with brands sharing take-home formats for consumer convenience.

“These products offer greater value for money to the consumers so is likely to entice shoppers and increase repeat purchase,” adds Kelly. “Take-home formats have been a success story since the beginning, an innovation that was led by Arctic Coffee.”

Healthier options is one of the key trends driving the market due to the increased popularity with consumers.

And this is across all categories, including chilled coffee.

“Consumers are gravitating towards products that offer additional nutritional benefits and will actively seek out brands that deliver on this,” says Kelly. “A clear front-runner here is Protein, which is why this year Arctic Coffee is meeting this demand for consumers by bringing to market Hi Protein Caramel Latte, a delicious chilled caramel latte with 15g Protein.”

Paul Hayes, the Strategic Advisor and Operations Director at Drip, comments: “Sustainability is going to be the make or break for the drinks sector over the next five years and the heavy weights know this. This is where smaller, independent brands have a distinct advantage. We have the agility and ability to source sustainably, without compromising on product quality. It is this commitment to authenticity that will see brands thrive in the market. The demand for soft drinks is always going to be there, but as an industry we have to be accountable and respond to consumer priorities.”

Authenticity is probably the biggest, overlooked trend driving the sector. Authentic brand stories are often few and far between, especially in the packaged water industry.

“The brands with the strongest stories, that are able to communicate and connect with retailers and consumers in a truly engaging way are going to start to dominate the market,” adds Hayes. “It’s something we’re hyper focused on at Drip and we’re already seeing great success with initiatives such as our art and culture series, Drip Curates.”

The conscious consumer has never been more prevalent. People don’t just want great tasting product; they want product that offers feel good and health benefits.

“Consumers want drinks that enhance and support their lifestyle,” says Hayes. “Anyone can create and bottle soft drinks, but the real pioneers are looking at new ways to deliver a product that offers it all; great taste, health benefits, sustainable and authentic.”

Lauren Edwards – Brand Manager at Franklin & Sons, comments: “Key trends driving the soft drinks market include sustainability, innovative flavour profiles, and premiumisation. Brands like Franklin & Sons are aligning their strategies with these trends by introducing products such as Peach & Mango, catering to the growing consumer demand for tropical flavours, driving retailer purchases and sales.”

Healthier drinks are indeed becoming more popular, especially as consumers become more health-conscious and retailers respond accordingly. The introduction of low-calorie and natural ingredient-based flavours such as Franklin & Sons’ Rhubarb Lemonade (25 cals per serving) reflects this trend.

Franklin & Sons’ best-selling products include Raspberry Lemonade and Elderflower Lemonade, with a value of over £0.5m each. Franklin & Sons’ soft drinks range has been well-received by retailers for its premium offering, at an affordable cost to consumers too.

“Franklin & Sons continually innovates and introduces new products to meet evolving consumer preferences,” says Edwards. “The recent launch of Peach & Mango in 275ml bottles is a testament to this commitment to new product development, continuing to follow purchasing trends to develop insight-led NPD for retailers to purchase from wholesales and stock.”

The launch of Peach & Mango will be supported with a PR and social media campaign, driving awareness of the product to wholesalers across the UK.

“Franklin & Sons highly values a collaborative approach with our wholesale partners,” adds Edwards. “Through effective and continuous communication, we ensure a thorough understanding of their needs, enabling us to offer tailored support. Our wide range of support includes direct access to our expert field sales team, commercial assistance, sales team training, customised selling tools, access to our dedicated brand and marketing team and much more. We aim to empower our partners with resources needed to succeed in driving ROS and distribution for our remarkable products.”

Sarah Baldwin, CEO at Purity Soft Drinks, comments: “Since the pandemic we have seen an increased focus on health, driving healthy soft drink sales particularly in the juice category. Our research shows that 29% of consumers are drinking more fruit juice and juice drinks in comparison to pre-Covid levels, and that health is now the second most important consideration after taste – with 41% of consumers choosing a soft drink because of its health credentials and 36% preferring products that provide one of their five-a-day (Purity Soft Drinks).

“To maximise the soft drinks opportunity, it’s important for wholesalers to carry a range of options that appeal to the growing number of retailers stocking healthier drinks. For many years, we have pursued the approach of including only natural ingredients in our products – with absolutely no added sugar ever – and this has been a key part of our mission as a business.”

The number of consumers moderating their drinking has skyrocketed, presenting massive opportunity for wholesalers to maximise their sales by carrying an enticing range of alcohol-free alternatives and soft drinks. 5.2m fewer UK adults consumed alcohol weekly in 2023 vs 2021, and 3 out of 4 are moderating their alcohol intake to some extent (KAM).

This is especially true for younger consumers, with nearly half (44%) of 18–24-year-olds considering themselves either an occasional or regular drinker of alcohol alternatives compared to 31% in 2022 (The Portman Group/YouGov).

“Our premium adult soft drinks brand firefly is well-placed to maximise this opportunity,” adds Baldwin. “Refreshingly still, with a complex yet subtle taste crafted from premium flavour blends and botanicals, the brand has grown an audience of consumers aiming to lower their alcohol consumption without compromising on flavour, style, or sophistication.”

While classic flavours like orange and apple remain as popular as ever, consumers are increasingly looking to experiment with modern flavour twists. Purity’s pipeline is inspired by emerging and ongoing flavour trends, with its latest flavour, Juice Burst Peach Ice Tea, following the tea-flavoured juice market growing ahead of the total soft drinks category year-on-year (IRI).

“A refreshingly sweet blend of peach juice and black tea flavouring, we anticipate Juice Burst Peach Ice Tea being a popular choice as the weather gets warmer,” says Baldwin. “The drink contains more fruit juice per bottle than any other SKU in the growing tea-flavoured juice market and is 1 of your 5 a day with no added sugar, artificial flavours or sweeteners.”

Premium milkshake brand, Shaken Udder, now the second largest milkshake brand in the UK (Nielsen), has launched a new range of tasty Protein Milkshakes. The shakes contain 20g of protein and are available in chocolate and strawberry flavours.

They are made with top-quality ingredients including Belgian chocolate and real strawberries.

The British brand spotted an opportunity to use their expertise in real ingredients to bring an everyday protein milkshake to the market that tastes incredible and contains no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners. The new shakes are ambient, making them an ideal choice for convenience.

A recent food and drink study (Waitrose) showed that a third of people look for foods which are high in protein and 12% of people have actually changed their diet over the past year to consume more protein. In addition to this, the UK protein market is set to grow by nearly 30% in the next 5 years (Mordor Intelligence).

Shaken Udder Co-Founder, Andrew Howie, says: “We identified a clear need for a mainstream protein brand within the milkshake category that still delivers exceptional taste.

“Our target shoppers aren’t focused on functional gains but they are seeking a nutritious treat with a boost of protein.”

Adam Hacking, Head of Beverages at Arla, comments: “Starbucks® chilled coffee remains the leading player within the Ready to Drink (RTD) category, worth £145m within a total category worth £297m (Kantar/Nielsen). The brand has continued to grow with an 18% value and 25% volume increase in the last 12 months (Kantar/Nielsen).”

Gaining a 3.3% value market share in the past year (Kantar/Nielsen), which is more than any other brand in the category, Starbucks® chilled coffee is larger than the next four brands and own-label combined. This significant growth has been driven by innovative product launches that cater to the ever-evolving consumer need states.

For instance, Multiserve is the fastest-growing segment in RTD coffee as shoppers look to new consumption occasions and use the product more as a take-home drink.

2022 saw the launch of the Starbucks® chilled coffee Multiserve range; 750ml sharing size formats in three flavour variants – Caffe Latte, Caramel Macchiato and Skinny Latte – allowing coffee lovers to enjoy their favourite chilled coffee at home. These continual innovations and range increases have led to Starbucks® chilled coffee being the fastest growing brand in these formats, increasing 138% year on year (or an equivalent £19m YoY, Kantar/Nielsen).

“Based on the above, retailers trust that the brand can and will deliver growth, and this confidence is validated by the fact that there have been considerable gains in both grocery multiples (+31%) and convenience (+7%, Kantar/Nielsen),” adds Hacking.

Following the success of its renowned range of high protein bars, flapjacks and supplements, the leading sports nutrition brand, Warrior®, has expanded its portfolio to include the new Warrior® Protein Water. This latest addition is a fruit-flavoured, easy-to-consume high protein, low calorie drink, packed with essential vitamins and electrolytes to keep you hydrated. With the added benefit of 10g of Collagen Peptides, this healthy drink will not only boost your protein intake, but will also nourish your skin, hair and nails.

Offering a convenient alternative to on-the-go protein powders, Warrior® Protein Water is sugar-free with less than 50 calories per bottle. Available in two refreshing flavours; Tropical and Berry, these are suitable for vegetarians and vegans and free-from genetically modified ingredients. Each 500ml bottle is ideal for those looking for a tasty way to hydrate whilst on the go, or to enjoy during or after a workout.

Kieran Fisher, Founder of Warrior and KBF Enterprises®, comments; “Last year was a phenomenal year for product innovation and we are thrilled to be starting 2024 by introducing Warrior® Protein Water to the market.”

“This provides an easy and convenient solution for people to boost their protein intake whilst on-the-go and we are confident this new addition will excite new and existing customers.”



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