Diet Coke has hit the top spot in carbonates, overtaking its standard counterpart for the first time. Arch rival Pepsi is finding life sweet under distributor Britvic which itself has a winner with Robinsons

What a difference a year makes - and in more ways than one. For a start, this year The Grocer’s Top Products section on soft drinks has been broken down to reflect the fragmented and giant size of the category. This means that instead of the usual list of 20 brands at the top of the £2.5bn-plus sector (multiple sales only), we have now broken it down into four - carbonates, non-carbonates, mineral water and chilled fruit juice.
Together, these four categories account for the lion’s share of all soft drinks sales, ringing up more than £2.4bn at tills across multiple grocers.
And this year’s four tables give a clear look at exactly who the winners and losers have been in each sub-category over the last 12 months - with some alarming results. The first change of major note is Diet Coke’s rise to number one position in soft drinks overall, topping the carbonates section with a 16.4 % rise in sales.
It is the first time the sugar-free version has outstripped its older, standard sibling for sales and shows how consumers continue to buy into diet variants in greater numbers.
But once again, it’s far from doom and gloom for arch rival Pepsi which, under the stewardship of distributor Britvic, has seen sales rise impressively across both standard and diet variants, no doubt helped by high profile campaigns starring the likes of David Beckham. Britvic’s J2O, enjoying its first full year on shelf, also notched up an impressive final sum.
In non-carbonated, Britvic’s Robinsons squash is runaway category leader, while sales of Ribena remained static. Sales of Ribena ready-to-drink variants fared even worse, although Five Alive is the biggest loser among the top 10 in this section.
Water’s meteoric rise as a packaged drink continues, with Britons obtaining around a quarter of their bottled H2O from the major multiples. Top of the pile here are French offerings Evian and Volvic with Highland Spring leading home-sourced brands. However, consumers’ thirst for added value waters appears to be waning with Danone’s Activ’ posting a drop in sales.
Last but not least, sales of chilled fruit juice also remain buoyant with Tropicana the runaway leader. Once again, P& G’s Sunny D has endured a torrid time, despite a £7.5m push. Worth around £150m a year at the end of the 1990s, it clocked up multiple grocer sales of under £27m in the period under review, although this still gives it second place.
Ambient drinks continue to flourish under category leader Del Monte. According to the company, sales of its Del Monte Pure Juice and juice drinks are now worth £42.2m through grocery and impulse while its World Fruits range rang up £6.1m of sales this year - up 44%.