Britvic has released its highly anticipated 2018 Soft Drinks Review and the report shows that 2018 was an unprecedented year for the soft drinks category with a number of impactful events to navigate. It delivered strong total value sales in the foodservice and licensed category of £7.1bn – an increase of +3.8%1 year on year.

Total licensed soft drinks value sales accounted for £4.4bn (+4.8%) while foodservice delivered £2.7bn (+2.5%)1.

“2018 was nothing short of extraordinary with a number of factors impacting the soft drinks category,” said Rachel Phillips, Out of Home Commercial Director. “We had to contend with extremely cold weather conditions at the beginning of the year, followed by the hottest summer on record for 30 years which also included the CO2 shortage early June. Against this backdrop the category delivered a sterling performance and it clearly demonstrates the opportunity that licensed operators and foodservice retailers can unlock.”

Only 8.4% of the total soft drinks market became levy liable in April last year2, signifying the concerted effort by manufacturers to create sustainable solutions through a variety of reformulation and product packaging strategies.

“The levy has left an indelible imprint on the soft drinks category,” stated Phillips. “Additionally, we’ve also seen consumers increasingly looking for low and no sugar drinks, which gives us a clear indicator of the future. Low and no alcohol drinks continued to gain traction in 2018, again pointing to the important role that soft drinks - especially adult soft drinks - can play in the licensed category.”

Soft drinks are by far the drink of choice when people choose to moderate their alcohol intake and two in three consumers want to see more adult soft drinks3 that are less sweet and favour flavours such as herbs and botanicals.

In the licensed market, growth was driven by managed wet-led, food-led freehold and leased and tenanted pubs. The foodservice sector experienced a high rate of soft drinks sales in quick service restaurants, while soft drink sales in contract catering outperformed the total foodservice market (+4.2%)1, driven by health, welfare and education. Overall, strongest soft drinks growth continued to come from the delivery market, food to go, the steady growth of coffee outlets and travel hub venues.

Product categories that drove soft drinks performance growth in both foodservice and licensed included cola, which delivered the largest actual value (+8.7% YoY), with mixers at +30.2% delivering the highest value performance1. Water Plus also delivered a strong performance with double digit growth (+13.2%) as consumers opt for more considered health choices.1

“The channel segment and product category performances shine a light on the opportunity that soft drinks sales present,” continued Phillips. “Britvic has created a simple action plan that we will be sharing in the coming weeks through the trade press to help operators and retailers realise the potential to generate additional profit.

“The key to unlocking soft drinks sales potential is by understanding the trends that impact consumers today and in the future and our action plan is designed to offer bite size advice to understanding and making the most of these opportunities. We’ll be discussing how a focus on health and wellness options can drive growth, while premiumisation of mainstream brands can maximise value from the high volume core. Personalisation has a definite role to play this year and we cannot forget about the increasing number of people looking for experiences to make their out of home experiences truly one-of-a-kind.”

The 2018 Foodservice & Licensed Britvic Soft Drinks Review is available for download from