Health a top priority in drinks demand, review finds

From health to sustainability, the Britvic Soft Drinks Review 2022 has examined key trends in the sector.

Demand for low sugar soft drinks and options with added health benefits is on the up, a major review into the market has found.

Soft drinks giant Britvic has examined the foodservice, hospitality and convenience and impulse sectors in its Soft Drinks Review 2022, which covers the post-pandemic period, highlighting key consumer trends from which care home caterers can take inspiration.

Hydration is high on the list of priorities for care homes and finding soft drinks which make it more likely for residents to increase their fluid intake is essential. Those which also have added health benefits can help caterers increase nutritional intake across the home.

Britvic’s review details the challenges felt by all areas of foodservice, including Covid restrictions in the first half of the year, the labour shortages felt throughout summer and their impact on supply chains, inflation, the rising cost of living and the arrival of the Omicron variant in December.

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It examines the impact of the pandemic on household finances. “Polarisation in personal finances poses opportunities for soft drinks to maximise spend with “value” and “treat” occasions,” it says. “Respectively, 20% of consumers say they are worse off than pre-pandemic and 20% say they are better off.”

Despite this split, it points to the ongoing premiumisation of orders, with the report showing that 58% of consumers said they would be likely to trade up to a premium soft drink if it was recommended with a dish. Caterers could explore introducing premium soft drink choices on menus to tie in with the desire for a treat.

Seasonal promotions and recipes which tie in with events are often drivers of interest for consumers, while the growing popularity of cocktails and mocktails in hospitality is also highlighted. Using high-end soft drinks in mocktails in care homes can not only create a fun activity but also increase hydration. 

Healthy choices

An important topic which runs through the review is the increasing focus on our health. The report says 75% of all consumers believe it is important to have healthier options available when eating out. The likes of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are increasing their share of space on both food and drink menus, which, albeit often as a slower pace, is being reflected on care home menus.

Demand for low and no-sugar continues to climb, which Britvic says “is a prime opportunity to increase soft drinks sales in foodservice”. As a result, it says, sugar-free drinks continue to grow faster than their full-sugar counterparts, a focus which will continue to deepen as HFSS legislation, due to be rolled out from October 2022, comes into force. 

Britvic says consumers aren’t only looking for a wider variety of lower calorie soft drink options, but are also seeking drinks with added benefits, such as immunity-boosting qualities, minerals or vitamins. These may be beneficial in care homes, where nutritional intake and fortification is particularly crucial, particularly summer approaches – a time when it is even more important to ensure residents are well-hydrated.

Green credentials

Sustainability is a key focus in the report, which says over 70% of shoppers believe the UK and global governments have a duty to act on climate change. Influences behind the mindset include Sir David Attenborough, campaigner Greta Thunberg and recent climate change conference COP26.

“Consumers’ understanding of their impact on the environment has ballooned in recent years as they continue to transcribe key messages from famous climate change activists and events, such as COP26, into their own lives,” it says. “More than ever, Britons are clued up on sustainability and the effect their decisions have on the world. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are always keen, or able, to make the right choices. While more shoppers subscribe to climate change, there is a growing tension between the cost of living more sustainably and the ability to do the right thing, with 44% of shoppers believing it is too expensive to support an environmentally friendly lifestyle.”

It covers work to reduce the environmental impact of plastic packaging and new ways to future-proof beyond plastic, including recycling, refilling and dispensing options.

In his welcome, Britvic managing director Paul Graham says: “Shoppers have also had more time to reflect on the impact they have on the environment, meaning the choices they make when buying food and drink are no longer just about taste, price or convenience. Consumers are more educated than ever when it comes to sustainability and environment, which plays on their conscience. In fact, consumers want suppliers and retailers to do more to help them make the right choices, and demand manufacturers and retailers to help them do this by creating or selling greener items. 

“The industry still awaits clarity on the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) legislation. Scotland’s DRS infrastructure, also known as a reverse deposit scheme, is currently scheduled to go live on 16 August 2023, having been delayed from a July 2022 date due to the pandemic. It is still, however, unknown when a DRS scheme will roll out across the rest of the UK, and it is worth noting that closed loop recycling programmes such as DRS will only be a short-term solution to maintaining rPET supplies, as virgin plastic will always be needed to ensure high-quality foodgrade plastics.”

The review showcases the key role delivery now plays in foodservice –  it accounted for £2 in every £10 spent in foodservice in 2021 and is on an upward trajectory. “In the past, foodservice delivery had relied on the ‘treat’ occasion, usually in the evenings and at weekends, but now Brits are ordering meals to their homes during the day and are doing so on most occasions to have a better work/life balance,” it says.

For more information, you can find the review at

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