In the war on sugar, sweet fizzy drinks were always going to have a tricky time of it. And none more so than Coca-Cola. Sales were down more than £24m year on year. And to make matters worse arch-rival Pepsi has grown £33m, making it the biggest grower of the year outside alcohol and tobacco.

Pepsi UK distributor Britvic has benefited from what it calls a “single-minded” focus on no-sugar Pepsi Max in 2014. “It’s been a brilliant year for Pepsi, with growth driven by Pepsi Max,” says PepsiCo Beverages UK General Manager Mark Elwell. “We’ve worked really hard to attract new consumers to the brand.”

To be fair, CCE has also put a lot of effort into tackling criticism, with the launch of a reduced sugar stevia-based variant, Coca-Cola Life (see below), while no-sugar Coke Zero has been boosted by marketing to broaden its appeal beyond young males.

And while Share A Coke returned this summer, even larger than last year, CCE’s decision to axe its two-litre bottles for a 1.75-litre curved model more than offset this in volume terms. It was “the biggest shake-up in carbonates this year, impacting on the category and Coca-Cola volume sales,” says Nielsen analyst Tom d’Angelo. “Pepsi stepped up promotional activity and targeted the new 1.75l packs with its two-litre packs.”

carbonates tpt

Sprite, another CCE brand, is faring even worse than Coke - in percentage terms - with volume down by a fifth. An improved performance from Fanta failed to make up for it.

Beyond the big two, Merrydown has grown Shloer through marketing, including activity aimed at mums-to-be and the launch of Shloer Celebration and limited editions. Irn-Bru volumes are up although value is static. The brand has been boosted by Commonwealth Games sponsorship and from PMPs, including some with a multibuy element.

PMPs have also helped drive growth in energy drinks, according to Red Bull, as have consumers purchasing packs for future consumption, which has driven multipack sale.

Coke’s energy drink brands Monster and Relentless are both up ahead of the market, partly as a result of tie-ups like Monster’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and the Relentless Soundchain music partnerships.

Lucozade attributes its growth to a mix of high-profile marketing and NPD such as its Brazilian-themed drinks, but it too is tackling the war on sugar, with its Lucozade Energy Reduced Sugar Cloudy Lemonade.

Indeed, while it’s a surprise that sports and energy drinks have been able to keep growing in the wake of such a relentless anti-sugar lobby, suppliers must know - with caffeine as well as sugar in the mix - their time in the glare of the spotlight will surely come.

Coca-Cola Life logo

Top launch: Coca-Cola Life by CCE

With high-sugar drinks increasingly demonised by health campaigners and the media - and shoppers and retailers changing buying habits accordingly - it was no surprise to see Coca-Cola launch a new low-sugar product. Green-liveried Life, which rolled out in August, is sweetened with sugar and stevia and designed to appeal to 35 to 55-year-olds. CCE says Life has been well received and has strong distribution - but it remains to be seen if it will grow Coke or cannibalise existing ranges.