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Putting The Fizz Back Into Foodservice: Soft Drink Sales Hit £3.02bn In 2023

Despite the cost-of-living crisis continuing to bite, Britvic reports that the eating out market turned over £97.3bn in 2023 – the first time annual sales have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, and an increase of 6% on 20222

Britvic’s Soft Drinks Review 2024 highlights that fast food is benefitting from consumers continuing to trade down and operators expanding their estates, whereas casual dining and pubs are being squeezed more than other sectors

The latest report reveals opportunities for growth for foodservice outlets through soft drinks, which are punching above their weight in foodservice – with sales growing by 4.0% to hit £3.02bn in 20231 and volumes growing by 0.8%

As the foodservice market bounces back, there are visible changes in both consumers’ reasons for visiting outlets and the type of places they’re visiting.

According to Britvic’s Soft Drinks Review 2024, these shifts in consumer behaviour, combined with the changing commercial climate, present significant opportunities for the sector. Britvic says that foodservice operators can unlock new growth and stand out from the crowd by harnessing the power of soft drinks, a category which has once again demonstrated its resilience and the crucial roles it has to play in driving footfall and sales.

More people are on the move again, fewer people are going out specifically for a treat and more people are choosing venues based on proximity and menu choice. These are just some of the latest consumer trends that are driving the renaissance of the foodservice sector. Britvic’s report indicates that share of eating out that took place in city centre or high street locations grew by 1% pts in 2023,4 reflecting growth in demand from people looking for quick meals, snacks and drinks while they’re out and about. Fast food restaurants are naturally reaping the rewards from consumers continuing to trade down, whereas casual dining and pubs are feeling the pinch more than other sectors.

Despite these challenges, Britvic maintains that foodservice operators can take advantage of these new consumer trends which are fuelling demand for more sophisticated soft drinks.

Overall sales of food and drink through foodservice grew by 6% year-on-year in 2023, but volumes fell by 3.8%.2 Soft drinks, on the other hand, continue to reign supreme within foodservice, with sales growing by 4.0% to hit £3.02bn last year and volumes growing by 0.8%.1 Britvic’s Soft Drinks Review 2024 indicates that part of the reason for the category’s success is down to consumers not being prepared to compromise on quality, despite more than three quarters (76.3%) of people identifying as being value-led.[4] In fact 73% are happy to splash out more for high quality drinks,5 illustrating the sheer scale of opportunity for foodservice operators to trade choices up to more premium drinks.

“Soft drinks are playing a more central role in many operators’ propositions,” explains Dino Labbate, GB commercial director for hospitality at Britvic. “Just look at Itsu with its range of co-branded LA Brewery kombuchas. Not to mention Indian street food operator, Mowgli, which has developed its own range of signature mocktails, lassis and low and no offerings. We’re urging more foodservice operators to follow suit and adapt their approach to selling soft drinks to stay ahead of the curve.”

Britvic’s report highlights several positive trends that will be music to the ears of foodservice operators. Firstly, daytime dining is on the rise, this presents foodservice operators with opportunities to wow guests with elevated versions of everyday drinks, from coffees to milkshakes and smoothies. Second of all, soft drinks are playing an increasingly important role in lunch and snacking occasions outside the home, with nearly half (49%) of food-to-go lunch occasions featuring soft drinks in 2023, and 39% of food-to-go snacking occasions including soft drinks last year.

He adds “Our report also shines a light on the continued importance on value. With more than a third (38.1%) of people citing good value for money as a motivator for their choice of soft drinks (a rise of 2.1% pts)10 and 13.8% citing special offers or discounts as a motivator (a rise of 1.2% pts),10 we’re seeing operators upping the ante on meal deals and sales events. In order to stand out from the crowd, operators will also need to step up their efforts by investing in building digital loyalty and improving customer experience.”