Carbonates’ £247.7m gain is the second largest for any category in this report (behind spirits), much of which is thanks to the tax man.

The introduction of the sugar levy in April sent prices surging - they’re up an average of 9.8% across the category. Volumes, meanwhile, are up a meagre 0.007%. So despite splashing out all that extra cash, Brits drunk just 179,996 extra litres.

Full-sugar pop is fast becoming persona non grata: nearly all of the biggest gains this year were made by zero-sugar or diet variants of the biggest brands. Pepsi Max raked in the largest gain, growing 21.3% (£58.3m) to £332m, while Coca-Cola Zero Sugar followed close behind with a 38.6% (£52.2m) rise to £187m. Irn-Bru Xtra, AG Barr’s zero-sugar version of the classic Scottish fizz, grew by more than two-thirds (67.6%) to £15.8m.

It will come as no surprise, then, that standard Pepsi Cola saw 6.2% (£7.1m) wiped off its value as Max flew off the shelves, or that 7 Up took a beating, dropping 25.7% (£5.2m) to £15m while its sugar-free variant added £5.3m, growing 22.6% in its stead. Standard Coke may be up 2.9% in value but that’s solely down to price; volumes fell 14.8%.

The message is clear: sugar-free is the future. Even Coke’s global CMO for sparkling told The Grocer earlier this year Coke Zero Sugar is fully expected to eclipse the flagship cola at a global level over coming years.

But sugar isn’t the whole story. Don’t forget 2018 was the year of the CO2 shortage, which caused massive supply issues for many suppliers, including Pepsi distributor Britvic. “We temporarily scaled back promotional activity on our carbonated soft drinks to ensure continuity of supply,” says Britvic GB commercial director for at home Phil Sanders.

Then there’s the scorching hot summer and dramatic World Cup, the combined impact of which is “quite hard to unpick”, says Barr Soft Drinks marketing director Adrian Troy. In fact, he says all these factors have made it “difficult to fully assess the impact of the sugar levy” on sales.

Indeed, Coca-Cola European Partners customer marketing director Simon Harrison says the World Cup marked “the best sales period ever” for soft drinks.

Over in energy drinks, all but one of the top five brands saw sales surge. Lucozade’s core drink struggled to win back share after shoppers gave its reformulated flavour the thumbs down - its £37.3m year-on-year loss is the second greatest of any non-tobacco product this year. But Lucozade Ribena Suntory sales director Scott Meredith insists the brand is now “future-proofed” and that sales have picked up. If reduced sugar is the future, then it is at least in the right place.


Cawston Press

Reformulated sodas, Cawston Press

Posh soft drinks firm Cawston Press claims to have spent over a year working on removing added sugar from its drinks without using artificial sweeteners, instead opting to massively up their fruit juice content by up to four times. This quadruplet rolled out in March with four flavours and an average of 24% fewer calories. Shoppers have gone nuts for them: value sales of Cawston’s carbonates have grown by two thirds (66.5%) to £3.6m over the last year.