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There's nothing soft about the soft drinks market

03 April, 2009
Page 44 

Despite poor weather and a slowing economy, sales of soft drinks did not fare too badly last year. According to the 2009 Britvic Soft Drinks Report, UK sales reached £8.4bn across all channels, a figure that was down just 1% on the previous year.

However if you drill down further, you find that it was the on-trade that bore the brunt of the sales decrease (down 4% to £2.3bn) while the take-home channel saw sales of soft drinks grow by 1% to reach just over £6bn. But that sales increase was down to the grocery multiples, whose sales increased by 2% to £4.2bn while impulse sales (which includes forecourts and convenience stores) declined by 3% to £1.86bn.

Britvic's report, which used Nielsen Scantrack data, breaks down the impulse channel further but only measures multiple forecourts, where sales were down 10% to £214m.

On to products and cola still leads the way in impulse outlets. Sales were down 2% last year but the sector still accounted for 28% of sales, worth £515m. Second to cola, was 'glucose stimulant drinks' or energy drinks, sales of which rocketed by 10% to reach £314m.

Pure juice sales were flat while other categories saw sharp declines - smoothies were down 17%; juice drinks were down 10%; and plain water was down 11%.

Coca-Cola was the number one brand. In total take-home it accrued £969m-worth of sales. It was followed by Lucozade, worth £343m, and Robinsons, worth £300m.

Andrew Richards, customer management director at Britvic, says: "Sales of branded soft drinks have held up extremely well during the onset of the economic downturn with consumers showing little desire to trade down to own-label goods or value-tier brands.

With another tough year ahead, brands that represent both quality and value are likely to prove most resilient."

He continues: "Last year's trends - health and wellbeing, environment and ethical trading, indulgence and convenience - are all still in evidence but have inevitably been over-shadowed by the economy.

"With another tough year ahead, the challenge for the industry is to keep delivering the quality and value consumers expect and adapt to changing shopping habits."