People aren’t just buying soft drinks these days, “they’re buying experiences”, says Jim Cregan, founder and MD of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, who with other iced coffee suppliers is forcing a re-evaluation of what constitutes an adult soft drink. “The category is packed with great design and passion, it’s healthier, and communicated better than other categories.”

New shoppers, attracted by NPD, have helped achieve a penetration of 49% compared with 46.4% in 2011. Value sales are up 1.5% on volumes up 7.4% [Kantar Worldpanel].

In a bid to re-engage women who had left the category due to lack of choice, Halewood International launched Faith in April 2012, a three-strong range of carbonated wine alternatives in Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc flavours. “The market is more sophisticated than many brands realise,” says Richard Clark, Halewood International’s director of innovation.

J2O is also targeting the alcohol-alternative market with J20 pear Gold, which is designed to mimic cider, while Shloer is investing £16m in its entire portfolio in 2013, including support for its limited-edition raspberry & rhubarb punch.

Unlike other sub-categories, adult soft drinks were not as severely affected by 2012’s poor weather, says Amanda Grabham, head of brand marketing at Shloer. “Adult soft drinks are generally purchased for sharing at social occasions, and this happens all year round, whatever the weather.”

Shloer also benefited from the Olympics and Jubilee in 2012. But with no such events in 2013, will the subcategory have to work harder? Not according to Cregan. “People are tiring of rows and rows of Coke with customer care lines run by computers and Facebook pages run by mega agencies,” he says. “This smaller subcategory is personal and consumers are looking for a better offering.”