Opening up a £1bn+ soft drinks opportunity: Suntory pinpoints how to appeal to UK shoppers

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Suntory's Great Britain and Ireland portfolio. Pic: SBF GB&I
Suntory's Great Britain and Ireland portfolio. Pic: SBF GB&I

Related tags Suntory Lucozade Ribena Suntory

Drinks which uplift, energize, and offer shoppers a treat are among those that can help retailers grab their share of more than £1bn ($1.36bn) in the UK’s soft drinks category over the next five years, says Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I.

This means a potential £8,992 in soft drink sales could be unlocked by each of the UK’s 46,388 convenience, symbol, and independent stores, estimates the company (formerly Lucozade Ribena Suntory).

SBF GB&I – whose key brands include Ribena, Lucozade, and MayTea  – has identified four consumer need states across the soft drinks category and that retailers can easily tap into: by making they have the right pack, in the right place, for the right occasion.

Four consumer need states to cater for 

1. Enjoyable refreshment

Retailers can inspire shoppers to consider a drink with or without food at key moments throughout the day by activating ‘meal for tonight’ options and flagging cross-category links.

PoS materials and reminding shoppers to visit the chiller is key to unlocking an extra £340M of growth of this category – equivalent to £2,529 per store, says Suntory.

It estimates that 20% of soft drinks are bought to cater for refreshment or hydration; while 55% of bottled water drinkers now carry and reuse a refillable water bottle.

2. Uplift and energize

Suntory notes that some 75% of people are concerned about their levels of tiredness and stress: signalling demand for uplifting and energizing options.

Increasing the visibility and presence of ‘better for you’ energy options - and championing sugar-free, natural and emerging segments through merchandising and in-store activation – can help retailers attract new shoppers. A ‘destination aisle’, for example, can cater for those with sporting and active lifestyles.

3. Special moments

The biggest potential category win for retailers comes from encouraging shoppers to choose a favourite soft drink when they are taking a moment in their day to enjoy a little treat, or by enhancing mealtime occasions. Retailers can help deliver £343M of category growth - £2,551 per store – by better catering for drinks to accompany ‘meals for tonight’ and delivering drink options to lift the mood of consumers.

Around 9% of consumers buy soft drinks to accompany evening meals. And with 33% of 18-24 year olds describing themselves as non-drinkers, that opens up the opportunity for this figure to grow.

4. Positive choices

Helping shoppers find more balanced and natural drink choices – and those with a positive force on society - could unlock an additional £235m in category sales for retailers a year. Educating shoppers and targeting the right formats and flavours to unlock new drinks occasions to tap into these trends are crucial.

Suntory notes a 43% rise in sales of ethical food and drink between 2013 and 2018.

Reacting to shopper trends

Alpesh Mistry, Sales Director at SBF GB&I, notes: “The trends we’ve seen develop during the Covid-19 crisis, such as increased in-home consumption, are set to continue.

“We also know that in recessionary times, people buy smaller packs more frequently. It is crucial that retailers understand these trends and make room for products that cater for these changing habits to continue to see category growth.

“The soft drink category needs to cater for these changes. We know one-in-four shoppers are consuming more soft drinks, and that £143M has been added to the category through increased multipack sales during lockdown.”

Mistry points ways Suntory has reacted to these trends: such as the launch of Ribena Sparkling, which is available in 500ml and two take-home formats - 2L and 6x330ml multipack cans; a reduction in the on-pack price of Ribena 600ml and Lucozade Energy 1L format drinks to £1.50, and by introducing 12x multipack cans of Lucozade Energy Orange and Original.

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