Supermarket Soft Drinks

Supermarket soft drinks prices have already surged in the wake of the sugar levy, exclusive research by The Grocer using Brand View data reveals.

The tax came into effect on Friday, applying only to drinks leaving bottling plants or registered warehouses from that date.

Most of the mults began hiking prices last week, with Belvoir Fruit Farms, 7up, Club Soft Drinks, Coca-Cola, Fentimans, Fever-Tree, Monster, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Bottlegreen, Irn-Bru and Red Bull among those subject to base price increases.

In the days leading up to the tax, Ocado and Waitrose hiked prices across 90.5% and 70.4%, respectively, of their affected carbonates and energy drinks ranges. Tesco and Sainsbury’s increased prices on about half their ranges and Asda on 43.4% of its products subject to the levy [Brand View 6-9 April 2018].

The majority of pre-tax price increases in Ocado, Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s were either in line with or lower than the sugar levy, but some 74.1% of Asda’s price increases were ahead of the tax.

A multipack of 20x330ml cans of Classic Coke increased in price from £7 to £10 in Asda, for example, which is £1.10 more than would have been expected based on the applicable sugar levy of 24p per litre.

Morrisons was slower to make its move, increasing the price of just one SKU ahead of the tax. However, it has this week hiked prices on 15 soft drink SKUs affected by the levy, including drinks from Coke, Monster, Fever-Tree and 7up [Brand View 6-11 April 2018].

The hikes mean average supermarket prices for carbonates and energy drinks, including sugary and diet SKUs, are already 10% higher than this time last year, with shoppers paying significantly more for some sugary brands.

Classic Coke is 10% more expensive on average than it was last year, for example, despite the brand also downsizing some SKUs to keep costs down [Brand View 52 w/e 11 April 2018]. A 1.75-litre bottle has been replaced with a 1.5-litre bottle, while the 1.25-litre bottle has been downsized to one litre.

Rival Pepsi, meanwhile, is 33% more expensive year on year, with an eight-pack of 300ml cans now £4.20, up by a whopping 68.2% year on year.

Shoppers are also now paying more on average for Sprite (+9%), 7up (+23%), Monster (+12%) and Red Bull (+5%).

“The government, policymakers and health experts have made it clear that they expect to see a price difference between products that contain sugar and those that have a low or zero sugar content,” said a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola European Partners. “We are passing on the tax and we did expect to see the price of Coca-Cola Classic rise in stores. Ultimately, though, all pricing is at the discretion of the retailer.”