1999 was the best year for UK soft drinks since the heatwave of 1995, according to the 2000 Sucralose Soft Drinks Report from Tate & Lyle Speciality Sweeteners, researched by soft drinks consultancy Zenith International. After the past two years of stagnant growth, last year's late summer helped boost sales. UK soft drinks consumption rose 8% in volume to more than 11,000 million litres and at retail level by 9% in value to £7.4bn. Carbonates, led by colas, continue to take the biggest wedge of the market with a steady volume share of 50%. The sector rose 7% accounting for more than 5,500 million litres and a retail value of £4.3bn. Dilutables are the next biggest category with a 25% share, although this continues to decline. And for the first time, bottled water has overtaken fruit juice with an 11% share of consumption. But however much the weather may have played its part last year, innovation has been the key driver. New products, brand reformulations, limited editions, packaging makeovers plus massive marketing support have all helped to increase sales. Coca-Cola Enterprises revitalised Lilt and 7-Up giving them both new looks for 1999. CCE has also put more focus on its Dr Pepper brand, which culminated in a 1999 ad spend of £7.5m. Its To Try It Is To Love It' campaign has lifted sales and it is now forecast Dr Pepper will become one of only 14 UK brands with sales over 100 million litres in 2000. Britvic Soft Drinks recharged the carbonates sector with increased support for the Tango brand including the launch of limited edition Tango Cherry ­ now a permanent part of the core range, plus the launch of a tropical variant. While some manufacturers took full advantage of the marketing opportunities offered by the millennium and the eclipse, launching special millennium brands ­ Orchid Drinks' Amé, Merrydown's Shloer Millennium, Evian's Millennium and Hall & Woodhouse's Panda Pops Eclipse ­ others put their faith behind movie blockbusters. For example the force of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace behind Britvic's Pepsi brand. The millennium, however, doesn't appear to have had the impact generally expected. "Few in the industry felt it had any material impact at all," says Zenith International chairman Richard Hall. "Alcohol, on the other hand, was more affected, particularly with wine and champagne stockpiling." Among the star performers, says the report, were clear flavoured drinks and energy drinks. The latter, despite small volumes, added the most value because of their cool, trendy image. Hall says: "They have the desired effect and people use' them rather than just drink' them." One of the most successful brands has been Red Bull. Volume trebled in 1998 and quadrupled in 1999 to 145 million cans. Its value increased almost £200m. Imagery also played a part in enhancing adult soft drinks such as Bottle Green's pressé range, while mixer drinks were revitalised with new flavours and packaging redesigns. The success of bottled water continues to gain momentum led by more everyday use of still water and the use of sports caps making it more portable. The report claims that bottled water will achieve the highest growth rate of all in the UK at around 10% a year. Functionality has crept into this category with more emphasis on bottled water's healthy benefits ­ no added ingredients, no calories and no taste. Chiltern Hills based its relaunch on its calcium benefits. Dilutables face more challenges than other sectors. Among the reasons are lack of convenience of being ready to drink, plus competition from increasingly affordable alternatives. Functionality has also made its mark in the dilutables sector. Britvic's brand leader Robinsons launched a range of high juice variants in 1999 and added vitamins to its standard range, while SmithKline Beecham has extended its Ribena Toothkind drink with no added sugar with new flavours. Three developments making waves in this sector are: premium cordials aimed at adults from Belvoir, Bottle Green and Thorncroft; syrups for soda making machines led by SodaStream; and a new initiative from Wells called Squash n' Shake which can be mixed with water or milk to make a squash or a milk shake. Smoothies, organics and functional drinks have all made inroads into the market. Although a multimillion dollar market in the US, smoothies have yet to do the same here. Total volumes in the UK account for under 10 million litres. Pete & Johnny was the first to introduce a 100% juice smoothie, followed by Innocent. Mainstream player SmithKline Beecham has since moved the smoothie out of the chiller into the ambient fixture with its thicker, more texturised mouthfeel' Ribena Smoothie. The 2000 Sucralose report claims that the "noughties will be the decade of organics". However, holding back the process is supply rather than price. Volume is small but sales more than doubled to over 10 million litres in 1999. Fruit juice is the most established sector led by Grove Fresh chilled and Libby's long life, plus own label. Other products have since come on line such as Whole Earth's organic cola and lemonade, and Cott Beverages' new lightly sparkling organic juice drink called Fruitfull in three flavours: apple, grapefruit and orange. Most bottled water is organic, but few have yet to put that message on the bottle. Another emerging development will be functional drinks and the better for you' factor, growing as consumers become more familiar with them. Although the future looks rosy for soft drinks with a 3% average growth rate predicted over the next five years, the report says its space could be challenged by non food lines such as mobile phones, TVs, etc offering better margins, and home shopping. Hall says: "While some of the leading brands perform in profit terms for supermarkets much more effectively than some of the minor brands, retailers know their customers like choice and innovation. So while there may be economic pressure for rationalisation, there is consumer satisfaction pressure for choice in existing brands and new ideas." {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}