We’re constantly being told the world is becoming more health-orientated and fizzy drinks and salty snacks are the big fmcg evils. What’s clear is that consumers are becoming more aware of the impact of their choices on their Health and are putting pressure on companies to give them their cake and let them eat it… guilt-free.
Snacks, salty ones in particular, have responded by changing ingredients (vegetable oil, vegetable crisps) or by using technology (popped crisps, baked crisps) to deliver taste with less compromise. soft drinks have been late to the party.
Fizzy drinks, to date, that are happy to use sweeteners as a means of calorie control are now facing pressure from those aware that sweeteners may come with their own problems. Leading beverage companies have reacted by introducing natural sweeteners (stevia) to reduce calories and, to varying degrees, replace sugar.
It’s not just calories that consumers are reacting to, though - it’s the whole package - preservatives, E-numbers, and anything that feels unnatural. What this means for soft drinks is more diversification. The market is opening up to products with a more identifiable and natural heritage. Products like coconut water and iced tea are growing rapidly around the world, while the more manufactured vitamin waters are struggling to get a foothold outside North America.
Soft drinks categories with less healthy associations will need to communicate the out-and-out consumer benefit they’re delivering and that it’s something you can’t compromise on. Emotion will be key.
We’ve already seen brands like Coca-Cola with its Share a Coke campaign place more emphasis on sharing and togetherness. This strategy helps to establish cola in a field where health is less front of mind, and where consumers are happy to make more indulgent choices. The World Cup will be a really interesting time to see if and how soft drink companies position their brands as a drink to share with friends and family against the backdrop of late night opening hours and the expected beer-dominated advertising landscape.
Kevin Evans is associate director of Added Value