monster ultra zero

Top launch: Monster Energy Ultra - CCE

Never mind that the sugar-free version of CCE stablemate Relentless has a very similar name (Origin Ultra), Monster Energy Ultra is worth our Top Launch gong. Here’s why: it’s already the second best-selling Monster flavour in the US, and with energy drink growth slowing here in the UK, the launch of a three-strong range of sugar-free energy drinks from the sector’s fastest growing brand signals a real statement of intent. It could help open up a whole new avenue for energy drinks.

In growth terms, Pepsi is once again top of the pops after delivering 5.9% growth for Britvic. ‘No Sugar Maximum Taste’ cola Pepsi Max is to thank for the brand’s £23.5m growth; all other major variants are in decline. 

In fact, Max has been the biggest gun in distributor Britvic’s arsenal as it battles it out with category giant Coca-Cola Enterprises, accounting for nearly all of the company’s growth in the past year and driving significant gains at the expense of its rival.

Combined sales of the Britvic products present in Nielsen’s top 50 lists for carbonated soft drinks and sports & energy drinks have grown 4.6% to £532.9m; volumes are up 4.5%. Combined sales of CCE’s brands have dipped 1.6% to £1,707.5m on volumes down 0.4%.

Coke was CCE’s biggest casualty, with the £15.7m growth of lower sugar Coke Life wiped out by the £42.4m losses of the three other major Coke variants, which were brought under the MyCoke umbrella with Life earlier this year as part of its ‘one brand’ strategy.

Even though Coke has lost £50m in the past two years, CCE general manager for the UK Leendert den Hollander is upbeat. “I evaluate the performance of Coke across the total universe; grocery and out of home,” he says. “It’s in growth in out of home.”

In grocery, Coke’s volumes have remained steady in the past year, chiefly thanks to an increase in frequency and depth of deals. A year ago volumes were down 5.5%. And, with diet and lower sugar stealing share from full-sugar drinks, den Hollander says Coke Zero and Life will be a key focus in 2016.

“There’s an opportunity to tell the story of the intrinsics of the individual Coke variants,” he says, adding that many Brits don’t recognise Zero as sugar-free. Another concern is the number of diet drinkers switching to Life (sugar content: 22g/330ml versus 35g for red Coke). “Switching from regular carbonates is increasing. Is it where I’d like it to be? No. But this is the beginning of a journey.”

Sugar content isn’t everything. In adult soft drinks, posh cues and quality ingredients are crucial, as reflected by the £953k the Schweppes Sparkling Juice range has hit since launch in March and the 156.7% surge to £1.1m of the Cawston Press sparkling range.

“Savvy buyers are using premium ranges to maintain sustainable higher prices with modest promotions,” says sales director Dan Broughton. “This is a winning formula.”

Energy drinks are also up in spite of often sky-high sugar levels. But with growth having slowed since 2014, sugar could be a growing issue. The new range from Monster Energy, the sector’s star performer with sales up £18.7m, certainly suggests so: sugar-free Monster Ultra hit shelves in September.

TOP 10 Carbonates  SALES
        £m change (£m) change (%)
Total volume change: –1.0% Total Category 2,509.80 –31.4 –1.2
      Total Own Label 155.3 –15.1 –8.8
1 1 Coca-Cola CCE 1,154.00 –26.6 –2.2
2 2 Pepsi Britvic 419.5 23.5 5.9
3 3 Fanta CCE 136.6 1.7 1.2
4 4 Irn-Bru AG Barr 100.2 –4.8 –4.6
5 5 Dr Pepper CCE 89.5 –2.7 –3.0
6 6 Schweppes CCE 52.9 –7.9 –13.0
7 7 Sprite CCE 52.2 –6.6 –11.2
8 8 7up Britvic 42.7 –1.2 –2.8
9 10 Shloer Merrydown 31.6 0.5 1.7
10 9 Tango Britvic 31.3 –0.1 –0.3
TOP 5 Sports & energy drinks SALES
        £m change (£m) change (%)
Total volume change: 1.3% Total Category 1,141.60 14.2 1.3
      Total Own Label 46.6 –7.6 –14.0
1 1 Lucozade Suntory 424.80 –1.5 0
2 2 Red Bull Red Bull 270.7 8.7 3
3 3 Monster CCE 124.5 18.7 18
4 4 Relentless CCE 59.6 –1.5 –3.0
5 5 Euro Shopper Booker 58.1 –2.2 –4.0

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