The supermarket aisles were awash with Coca-Cola offers at the weekend, but its biggest rival is starting to play catch up.

Last weekend was a good one for shoppers looking for Coca-Cola. Its 2-litre bottles were on multibuy at all six major retailers in a weekend marked by intensified promotional activity from the leading brand.

Sainsbury’s and Somerfield offered the steepest discounts at 33%, having reduced the cola from £1.49 to £1.00 a bottle through their 2-for-£2 deals. Tesco’s 2-for-£2.60 deal represented the smallest percentage discount at 10%, but only because its starting price was £1.45 compared with £1.49 at Waitrose and Morrisons, the other two retailers offering the deal.

Last weekend represented a major upswing in Coca-Cola’s promotional activity, with its offers making up a whopping 44% of all the weekend deals across the category.

And it was not alone in boosting its activity, with second-placed Pepsi accounting for a higher-than-usual 18% share of activity, and third-placed Schweppes accounting for 15% – an uplift of six percentage points on its usual share.

But while Coca-Cola continues to dominate the carbonated drinks category, its activity has fallen off slightly over the past two years, from 559 promotions between January and August 2006 to 493 over the same period this year. Its rivals, conversely, have significantly ramped up their promotional efforts.

Overall promotional activity in the carbonated sector has shot up 42% since 2006, from 958 promotions to 1,360 . 

As a result, in the first seven months of 2008, Coca-Cola accounted for 36% of total activity in the category compared with 58% in the same period in 2006. Pepsi, on the other hand, was responsible for 17% of offers from January to August, compared with 13% in 2006, while Schweppes accounted for 9% compared with 6% .

So although Coca-Cola has shown it still has the muscle to discount more widely than its rivals, with promotional budgets across the sector seemingly on the up, now is not the time for complacency.