Price competition and poor weather combined to make last year a difficult one for soft drinks but some drinks and, in particular, the convenience channel provided bright spots.
IF soft drinks has been one of the strongest performing product categories in UK food and drink retail in recent years, 2015 was a period when the going got a whole lot tougher, said the 2016 Britvic Soft Drinks Review 2016.
But it also said last year hadn’t been all doom and gloom. While overall sales, as measured by Nielsen Scantrack, fell by 0.6% much of that was down to fierce price competition in major multiples and discounters where volume sales increased by just more than 1% but the overall value of sales dropped by just under 1%.
In contrast, sales value in the convenience channel, which includes independent and symbols and multiple convenience outlets like Tesco Express, was actually up quite healthily.
The review said sales rose 2.2% in the convenience channel in 2015 compared to 2014, to reach a value of £3.1bn.
The channel benefited from changing shopper behaviour, including a clear move to convenience that reflected longer working hours, lengthy commutes, and an increase in the number of smaller and solo households, it suggested.
And convenience retailers had played their part by effectively responding to new shopping missions and demands.
Soft drinks, the Review said, was perhaps the category that most readily responded to several missions. Single-serve soft drinks increased by 2.5% to £2bn and take-home was up 1.6% to £1bn.
In c-stores cola was the biggest sub-category and increased sales slightly to reach a value of £704m.
Energy drinks was the other biggie and rose 3.2% to reach £689m.
Among the fastest growing sub-categories of soft drinks in convenience were: water up 10.4% to become the third most valuable sub-category with sales of £319m; water plus, up 7.6% to £95m; smoothies, up 10.8% to £43m; and iced tea and coffee, up 20.6% to £38m. But other sub-categories fared much less well, including: sports drinks, down 7.8%, and squashes, down 4.9%.
Coca-Cola was the most valuable brand in convenience but sales at £515m were said to be down 2.5%. The Soft Drinks Review found overall sales by Coca-Cola Enterprises, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Barr and Tropicana dropped while sales by Britvic, Danone, Red Bull, and Nestlé Waters increased.
Low-calorie drinks grew by 4.1% in convenience to reach £567m while full-sugar drinks increased by a lesser amount, 1.7%, to £2.5bn.