Soft drink sales are growing faster through c-stores than supermarkets for the first time in three years as shoppers make more top-up trips.

Total take-home soft drinks sales grew 6.6% to £6.6bn last year, according to the annual Britvic Soft Drinks Report. Sales through impulse channels were up 7% compared with 6.5% at the multiples.

"The increase in top-up shopping and single-serve soft drink sales has been great news for convenience retailers after they endured a difficult 2009," said Britvic customer management director Murray Harris.

All but one of the 15 leading soft drink sub-categories showed value growth in 2010.

The iced tea and coffees sector was the star performer, with 92.7% sales growth boosted by increased penetration of Lipton Iced Tea, a PepsiCo and Unilever joint venture.

The dairy and dairy-substitutes sector was the only one to experience falling sales, with value sales down 2.6%.

The fastest-growing top 10 brand was Britvic-distributed Pepsi, with a 13.2% hike in sales driven by 19% growth in Pepsi Max [Nielsen 52w/e 25 December 2010]. Sales of arch-rival Coca-Cola grew 8.3% over the same period.
Despite the resilience of the soft drinks sector, Harris conceded that value sales had been bolstered by price inflation, necessitated by the spiralling cost of sugar, oil and steel.

"The real measure is always about volume," he said. "Any of our customers will look at value sales with one eye closed."

Total take-home volume sales of soft drinks climbed 2.5% to 7.1 billion litres.