Soft focus

For most areas of food and drink Christmas means big Features > Business, and the soft drinks category is no exception. Christmas provides the perfect opportunity to try out new and exciting combinations of drinks, as a non-alcoholic alternative or an interesting mixer.

According to Coca-Cola Enterprises the Christmas soft drinks category is currently worth pound;236m, the fourth largest in ambient grocery, and consistently showing significant growth.

CCE says the Coca-Cola brand has a long-standing link with Christmas, rooted in a history of iconic seasonal advertising.

Kenny Chisholm, shopper marketing manager of CCE, says: “Eight per cent of soft drink category sales value is in December in the wholesale channel. Christmas has always has a special significance for Coca-Cola, with market research demonstrating that consumers are keener than ever to treat themselves and their families at Christmas time. Retailers can drive sales by making the most of CCE’s eye-catching seasonal POS and on-pack graphics.”

CCE is also promoting Schweppes following on from the promotion earlier in the year to position Schweppes as the definitive mixer and adult soft drink range. The Winter Lemonade blend is also available through till March.

Appletiser say consumers spent pound;4.7bn on total Christmas food in the final four weeks of 2006 and that soft drinks is the ninth largest category at Christmas and the fourth biggest in ambient grocery.

Appletiser has promoted Peartiser in the last year, aiming for position in the adult special soft drinks sector. It says the adult special sector over indexed by 2.4% as consumers sourced non-alcoholic alternatives for the party season. It can also be used as an alternative to more traditional mixers like tonic, fresh orange juice or other soft drinks. It can be mixed with vodka or gin or form the basis for a Christmas fruit punch or party cocktail. Merchandising alongside spirits can encourage consumers to link the two.

Andy Thompson, brand manager of Appletiser, says: “Cross category displays are an ideal way to educate consumers about different drinking occasions and encourage impulsive purchases. This could be alongside food or alcoholic products to emphasise the Christmas social and mealtime relevance.”

Eric Folliot, senior brand manager of Orangina, says: “Cash and carry and delivered wholesale is a critical sales channel for the success of Orangina and it has been behind the success of the brand thanks to price-marked packs for 500ml PET and two litre PET bottles. However with consumer demand growing for more natural and healthier drinks there is further growth in these formats, but also in the iconic glass bulb-shaped bottle, ideal to benefit from the increased popularity of ‘caf eacute; culture.”

Orangina held a competition to create alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails with Orangina as the core ingredient. The brand will be building on this next year with a campaign to extend the appeal of the drink.

Folliot adds: “There is a huge opportunity on Orangina over Christmas as the brand is perceived by consumers as an indulgent adult treat. Many will be looking for a tasty drink when out and about doing their Christmas shopping, or when at home. Orangina has successfully been used as a delicious mixer for cocktails to give an extra zest to festivities.”

Mike Coppard, managing director of Shloer, says: “For our brand, like numerous others, Christmas is one of the busiest sales periods, with volume up to 25 times higher than the annual average in the weeks proceeding the big day. Christmas may traditionally be viewed as a period of excess consumption, especially on the alcoholic beverage front. However, year on year sales growth proves consumers still want the choice of a sparkling non-alcoholic alternative. Last year, Shloer Christmas sales were up 8% on 2005 and this year we’re anticipating double figures in terms of percentage growth.”

Shloer is available in one litre bottle six packs and comes in a range of flavours, including: Red Grape, White Grape and White Grape Mango Passion Fruit.

Coppard says: “The cash and carry and delivered wholesale sector is incredibly important for Shloer and one of the main focuses for the brand this year was to increase its presence within this area. The wholesale sector is an area we see great potential in growing the Shloer brand and, with this year’s introduction of the new White Grape Mango Passionfruit one litre bottle six-pack, Shloer has created an additional sales opportunity for wholesalers and their customers alike.”

According to Mintel still fruit drinks remain the most popular of those defined by Mintel as adult soft drinks, with consumption highest overall in the youth mass-market, particularly among consumers aged 15-24.

Caroline Cater, business unit controller of take home wholesale at Britvic, says: “The wholesale channel is like a shop window for our Features > Business, providing us a means to communicate and sell to thousands of independent retailers who would otherwise be very difficult to reach. Working in close partnership with the wholesale channel is very important because when we sell more products, wholesalers make more profit.”

Britvic says that Christmas is a peak season for soft drinks in both the on-premise and take-home sectors. This is linked directly to an increase in socialising with the uplift of alcoholic drinks sales which can impact directly on sales of mixers.

Cater says: “Sales of traditional favourites like cola and lemonade within on-premise continue to be recording strong growth over this period but there has also been a significant shift towards fruit juice and premium packaged soft drinks, such as J2O. Soft drinks have now become bigger in value in take-home than wine, chocolate, spirits or beer at Christmas and present more opportunities for value growth.”

According to PepsiCo, over the Christmas holiday breakfast becomes a more leisurely occasion, with plenty of time for families to sit around the breakfast table and talk. PepsiCo marketing manager Aaron Mahadevan says: “Tropicana and Copella are two of the tastiest ways to get one of your five a day, and over Christmas you can enjoy them at a far more relaxed pace, either at breakfast or later in the day.”

PepsiCo advises stocking up on Tropicana, Copella and PJ Smoothies in the one litre and 1.75 litre bottles as well as the impulse 330ml to take advantage of the seasonal increase.

Ocean Spray has introduced Cranberry Pomegranate and Cranberry Blueberry and says it is the number one brand in one litre ambient juice drinks. In September it had its highest penetration for over three years.

Jonathan Duffin, business development manager of Ocean Spray International Services, says: “Our juice drink blends offer real excitement to the category and help consumers experience different flavours with confidence.

“The wholesale channel is critical for both our multiserve and impulse formats, and driving depth of distribution is a key objective for Ocean Spray. To help independent retailers capitalise on the popularity of cranberry, Ocean Spray offers a number of pack sizes for different usage.”

Another entry into the soft drinks category is The Feel Good Drinks Company. Following on from the still and sparking ranges the company has launched into the chilled sector with 100% squeezed juice 250ml range. It includes Orange, Mandarin Tangerine, Apple, Golden Kiwi Lime and Raspberry, Blueberry Apple.

Dave Wallwork, MD of The Feel Good Drinks Company, says: “We are currently working with over 50 great wholesalers who are doing a brilliant job of selling our products nationwide.”

In the foodservice sector Brakes has launched a range of smoothies and flavoured waters that count as one of the recommended daily portions. The smoothies are available in Orange Mango and Strawberry Banana. The Juicy Water range is available in Orange Pineapple and Raspberry, Grape Apple. Both the smoothies and Juicy Water are available in 200ml cartons.

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