Soft drinks, for so long the Cinderella of the drinks world, are finally having their moment in the spotlight.

As more and more people cut down, or indeed cut out, drinking entirely the category has become more important, particularly in the on-trade, which has been slow to pick up on demand for posher and more exciting low and no alcohol tipples.

Launches such as Seedlip, now partly owned by Diageo, have shaken up the market while craft sodas and cold pressed juices are also beginning to gain traction in urban areas. San Pellegrino and Fever Tree have performed well recently and are getting significant distribution gains.

Big number: 15 per cent decline in volume sale is predicted following the introduction of the sugar tax

The overall category has been helped by the strong performance on the mixer sector, which has been boosted by the gin boom and both Coca-Cola European Partners' Schweppes brand and Britvic's mixer brand got significant support last year.

Cola continues to dominate however, and the sugar tax will be of particular concern to brand owners in this section of the market next year and beyond. We can therefore expect more new or reformulated sugar free variants, such as the rebrand of Coke Zero as Coca-Cola Zero Sugar that we saw last June.

Producers have been concentrating on the "with food" opportunity to boost the profile of soft drinks in pubs and bars, most notably SHS Drinks' Bottlegreen brand and Britivc for its J20 Spritzer range.

Mintel's research suggests new flavours would also boost sales, alongside drinks with "added benefits" such as fortified drinks (eg added Vitamin C), which could help retain older drinkers in the category – 38 per cent of carbonated soft drink fans aged between 35 and 44 said this interested them.

Seasonal flavours maybe another opportunity with 29 per cent of carbonated soft drinks consumers expressing interest in the idea yet very few launches make claims around seasonal flavours or serves. Autumn and winter flavours could also help de-seasonalise the category, which remains highly weather dependent.


All statistics from Mintel

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Cask Ale