CGA by NIQ’s data shows it has been a very strong start to 2023 for the soft drinks category. Sales surged past the £1bn mark to reach £1,007m in the first quarter—up by an inflation-beating 12% year-on-year.
Soft drinks now have a 15.5% share of total On Premise drinks sales by value, having grown their share by 1.7 percentage points over the last 12 months. This is faster growth than any other category, and a lot of it has come at the expense of spirits, which has lost 2.4 percentage points of share. It reflects many consumers’ growing interest in health and alcohol moderation, and indicates that ‘Dry January’ has been an effective launchpad for soft drinks this year.
Here are six more insights from CGA’s exclusive On Premise Measurement Service and consumer research to help suppliers capitalise on this flourishing category.
CGA’s On Premise User Survey shows the wide appeal of soft drinks across all channels. They are most frequently chosen in the formal dining (78% of consumers), casual dining (77%) and hotel (77%) segments.
Cola attracts nearly half (45.6%) of all soft drinks sales by value. It increased its share by 2.3 percentage points year-on-year, which gave it the fastest growth of any category. This was largely driven by 18.4% growth in value rate of sale, bringing an average of £4,859 into tills in the first quarter.
The mixers category has suffered from the dip in spirits sales in 2023, and gin in particular. Value sales are 20% below the pre-COVID-19 levels of 2019, though they bounced back a little with 3.1% growth over the last 12 months.
By contrast, beverage syrups sales rose 9.2% in the first quarter, and the number of outlets stocking them has more than doubled in the last four years, rising 118% to 26,240 sites. This has been powered by soaring demand for cocktails in the aftermath of COVID-19—though growth here has slowed in late 2022 and early 2023.
Packaged serves accounted for more than half (53.6%) of soft drinks sales in the first quarter, having taken 0.2 percentage points from draught. Glass bottles stole 0.3 percentage points of share and now attract 37.9% of soft drinks spending.
Consumers’ focus on value has had a modest effect on soft drinks choices. Just over half (54.4%) of spending has been on mainstream or budget quality brands—a year-on-year increase of 0.5 percentage points at the expense of more premium options.
“Soft drinks have been a real bright spot in a challenging first quarter for the On Premise,” said Matt Meek, CGA senior client manager. “Interest in moderation and value have combined to pull more consumers into the category, and we’ve seen some excellent NPD, innovations and activations in early 2023. But with inflation piling pressure on both businesses’ costs and consumers’ spending, there will be intense competition for sales over the spring and summer. Keeping up to speed with trends and responding with the right strategies in ranging, pricing, serve and more will be crucial in the battle for soft drinks share.”