The impulse market for soft drinks lost its fizz in 2009, with value sales falling 3%.

Hardest hit were the newsagents where value sales crashed 20% and multiple off-licences, where an 11% decline was largely due to the collapse of First Quench [Britvic Soft Drinks Report 2010].

"The impulse market is quite challenged," says Britvic Soft Drinks marketing director Simon Stewart. "Multiple grocers are being quite aggressive in terms of top-up shopping, so whereas you might have popped into a local store to pick up a bottle of Robinsons you're now as likely to pop into Asda or Tesco to do that."

Another reason is the poor weather, he adds. "With impulse you have to have people on the road and if they're not then the segment doesn't do too well."

Britvic is leading the fight back for impulse with new formats for Pepsi Max, Diet Pepsi, 7Up Free and Tango. The company is switching drinks from a 500ml format to 600ml bottle, but is keeping the price at 99p to "improve their value-for-money credentials".

"More than 82% of households purchase carbonates in a multiple grocer each year but only 44% purchase in the on-the-go channel," says Pepsi senior brand manager Noel Clarke. "Closing this gap is a £40m opportunity for on-the-go retailers."

This gap could already be closing, claims GSK sales strategy and category marketing director Colin Seymour, who says consumers are slowly returning to old habits.

"In the recession, we were seeing people plan purchases more, so there was faster growth in supermarkets. That's now beginning to turn around and we're seeing the beginning of consumers buying more impulse and more top-up local neighbourhood shopping," he says.

Focus On Soft Drinks