Competition is fierce, but speciality soft drinks that successfully appeal to adults can command premium prices and earn a place on occasional, or even weekly, shopping lists

Adult soft drinks represent the second fastest-growing sector of the market and one of the most competitive. Everyone wants in, which is not surprising given the premium prices these brands command.

Bottlegreen, Shloer and Amé can expect greater competition this year, although many believe they won't have the same staying power.

"The market is becoming increasingly cluttered by companies recognising this profitable sector," says Bottlegreen Drinks Co managing director Simon Speers. "This is bound to generate greater competition."

Speers says that, while marketing techniques may be successful for the children's category, adults are less influenced by the ad men. "Brands that employ marketing gimmicks in the hope of making a quick profit will fail," he says. "But companies that deliver with actual substance to their claims will do well."

Bottlegreen, which claims a 57% share of the adult premium cordial sub-sector, is one of the pioneers. This year it has relaunched and extended its range of 750ml sparkling pressés, and added a still elderflower drink to its portfolio, as well as a sweet lime variant to its pressé range. Rival Belvoir Fruit Farms is also playing the heritage card, relaunching its drinks brand to reflect its drinks' home-made credentials. The drinks are now available in glass milk-bottle-style containers with labels that appear handwritten.

Meanwhile, Appletiser is pinning this year's activity on summer occasions after research showed that sales of its 275ml bottle were 65.7% higher last July than during the rest of the year. It will be promoting its drink as the perfect accompaniment for summer dining and barbecues.

The adult sector has benefited from the trend towards healthier drinks and interest in alcohol alternatives. As Britvic category director Andrew Marsden says: "It is a fast-moving marketplace. If you look at the trends in adult soft drinks you see those reflected across the market."

Marsden notes that the increasing choice has resulted in "ordinary drinks at super-premium prices, as well as some genuinely premium drinks". "If you look at, say, Amé, which is in very significant growth, it is not too expensive to be included in a weekly shop, whereas others make you think 'that's fascinating but won't sell more than a bottle a year'."

Britvic claims that its adult juice drink brand J2O, which is designed to lend itself to pub and party environments, grew 68% to £39m last year. Shloer, meanwhile, has embarked on a complete overhaul worth £10m, including a £5m marketing support package this year to give the brand a more contemporary look and to appeal to a younger audience and new users.

Marketing director Mike Coppard says: "Shloer has a great heritage, which we are bringing bang-up-to-date with a thorough redesign and new taste combinations."

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Focus on Soft Drinks (May 2006)