Soft drinks market is growing up with focus on health and entertaining... prizes await manufacturers who back key brands

Matthew Langley, Bottlegreen Drinks Co marketing manager:

The soft drinks category in the UK is among retail's most innovative and exciting - it has to be to fight against one of the shortest dwell times of any category. The number, size and scale of companies competing are astounding, and innovation is rife.

Health, integrity and provenance of soft drinks are, and will continue to be, the biggest drivers for the market, with healthy brands showing the largest and most dramatic growth. 

Another area currently in growth is adult soft drinks, which thrives on sharing occasions and home entertaining. The important drivers in this sector are convenience, increased awareness and the shift to premium products. 

Seasonality is also key, and a poor summer can adversely affect the category. Carbonated drinks are declining partly as a result of this, and partly because some consumers are switching to non-carbonated sectors as health concerns grow.

John Place, c ategory buyer for soft drinks, Somerfield:

The health debate is certainly the most exciting trend having an impact on the soft drinks category. It will be interesting to see how retailers and manufacturers react, and the benefits to water, children's drinks and still drinks have yet to be fully exploited. 

There are a significant number of great products in the UK and globally that are yet to be fully exploited or backed to the level that really puts them in the limelight. The first big manufacturer to get ahead will succeed, although this will certainly require a brave step. Unfortunately, manufacturers are often too concerned with protecting what they've got before they get round to chasing the real opportunities.

There are some big brand launches lined up for this year, but own label products can be at the edge of NPD, as they don't have the same constraints brand marketers are placed under. Keep your eye on the major retailers to understand what is happening.

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Focus on Soft Drinks (May 2006)