Source: Waitrose

The supermarket has also been growing the space dedicated to low & no alcohol drinks

Waitrose is to extend its trial of in-store bays dedicated to stocking suppliers of functional beverages, after gaining “useful” insights from the early stages of the initiative.

The supermarket first launched dedicated bays in about 30 stores in May as part of a limited trial, as exclusively revealed by The Grocer. The bays are stocked with a mixture of ‘better for you’ drinks like vitamin waters, natural energy drinks and CBD-infused products. They were introduced as a way of testing market appetite for the emerging functional and wellness category.

Waitrose will now extend the trial until February. However, it is reducing the number of stores involved in the scheme from 30 to 22. Some of the brands included in the bays have also been taken out and given permanent listings across Waitrose stores.

“We already have useful learnings and will introduce some of the best-performing drinks into other shops before Christmas,” a said Waitrose spokeswoman.

The Grocer understands that drinks suppliers were told of the changes during a recent buyer’s day last month. The move is part of wider efforts aimed at ensuring that the chain is more “front footed” when it comes to emerging trends.

CBD products are understood to be a growing area of focus. Lines from CBD-infused brands Trip and Goodrays were included in Waitrose’s £5 lunchtime meal deal offer, which launched in August. The supermarket has also been growing the space dedicated to low & no alcohol drinks, and signed a partnership with Diageo in August that will see the amount of store space dedicated to the category increase by up to 60%.

The supermarket has been stepping up its food and drink innovation efforts over the past couple of years, as it looks to better focus its customer offer, and attract a broader range of shoppers to counteract what has been shrinking sales, and market share.

It includes working with tools like AI, to track popular food trends. The supermarket’s decision to launch its new Japan Menyū own label range of ready meals was influenced partly by the fact it noticed that web searches for Japanese-inspired food had increased.