How did Prime's soft drinks sales perform since its 2023 UK launch?

Prime’s performance is symptomatic of a buoyant sports & energy drinks market

This has been the year of Prime, the US sensation. It began with its sought-after Hydration range spotted in stores priced at up to £18 – way over its £2.99 rsp.

Then came listings in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Co-op, as well as the launch of an Energy variant in April. It’s culminated in UK sales of 54.6 million litres, or £131.m.

Prime’s performance is symptomatic of a buoyant sports & energy drinks market. The category is worth an extra £390.2m after 81.4 million more litres went through tills.

In a sector where brands account for 98.9% of value, the top three names – Red Bull, Monster and Lucozade – added a combined £244.3m on the back of growing volumes.

Energy drinks adding value in 2023

For carbonates, 2023 wasn’t quite so sparkling. A 6.9% increase in value was entirely attributable to higher prices. Volumes have fallen  3.9% – markedly faster than last year – driven by a 4.2% decline for brands.

Still, there have been pockets of meaningful growth. Take Dr Pepper, which shifted an extra 5.1 million litres. That’s down in part to strong sales of its sugar-free Zero option.

“Brands that have placed a strong emphasis on sugar-free varieties have been rewarded with increased shelf space and distribution in stores, contributing to higher sales,” confirms Melissa Molano, NIQ analytics consultant.

“The promotion of sugar-free varieties is essential to cater to changing consumer preferences,” she adds.

Coca-Cola’s and Pepsi’s sugar-free sales

Top two brands Coca-Cola and Pepsi “are achieving success with their sugar-free varieties”, Molano notes. But less so with their overall portfolios. A combined loss of 59.4 million litres “can be attributed, in part, to the influence of the summer season”,  Molano says. “Unfortunately, this summer featured milder temperatures, leading to reduced consumption of cola.”

Their combined value gains, worth a total of £143.8m, were the result of higher prices. The same can be said of third-placed Fanta – up an extra £26.7m. It’s down 1.8% in volumes but average price per litre is 9.5% higher. Owner CCEP says Fanta benefited from big investment, including its annual Halloween activity. It was also boosted by the February axing of Lilt, to be replaced by Fanta Pineapple & Grapefruit.

Fanta’s main rival, Tango, has had a considerably bigger year. It’s grown value and volume faster than any other top 20 brand – by 42.7% and 28.3% respectively.

“Tango is the fastest growing fruit-flavoured carbonates brand in the UK,” says Ben Parker, retail commercial director at Britvic. “Fruit-flavoured carbonates are showing strong growth.” For a struggling soda category, that’s refreshing news.

Top Launch 2023

Gut Lovin’ Soda Orange | Hip Pop

Soft drinks HIpPop Gut Loving Soda ORange 3

This premium fizzy drink from Hip Pop bagged a gold medal at The Grocer New Products & Packaging Awards 2023. And deservedly so. Not only is it refreshing and beautifully packaged, it’s also a healthier choice. Each can of Gut Lovin’ Soda Orange (rsp: £1.99/330ml) contains probiotics, a quarter of your daily prebiotic fibre, less than 2.5g of sugar per 100ml and zero sweeteners. “Our orangeade is like a party in a can,” claims Hip Pop. It’s hard to disagree.

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