Find your fizz: How venues can drive £170m soft drinks growth

Visitors to Britain’s pubs, clubs and restaurants are rethinking drink. As we explored in the 2023 Britvic Soft Drinks Review, they’re now far less likely to drink alcohol when they go out to socialise. This presents a sparkling £170m growth opportunity for soft drinks in the out-of-home sector. How can it be realised?

Reading time 7 minutes

Experience is everything in the out-of-home sector. Pubs, clubs and restaurants that offer their guests experiences they can just as easily have at home face an uncertain future. This applies to everything from the ambience and service standards in venues, to the food and drink they serve.

It’s time operators rethink their approach to soft drinks. One in three adults now rarely or never drink alcohol and 38% say they are going out to eat and drink less often in response to the cost-of-living crisis. But when they do venture out, quality is crucial. Only 11% of people say they have compromised on the quality of the drinks they consume; the same number say they are now enjoying higher quality drinks.

We calculate that Britain’s venues can deliver a sales boost of up to £170m by encouraging just 10% consumers to trade up from tap water to a soft drink[1]. Raising the bar in soft drinks requires a deft touch and good understanding of the trends currently driving change in the market. At Britvic, we’re working with our trade partners to help them realise this sparkling sales opportunity.


Raising the bar with premium soft drinks

People want to be wowed, regardless of whether they’re drinking alcohol or not. Paying close attention to soft drinks ranges with clearly defined ‘good, better, best’ tiering and ensuring they’re served at the right temperature in sophisticated glassware with well-considered garnishes can give that wow factor. Soft drinks should be just as eye-catching and mouth-watering as their alcoholic equivalents.

Demand for more complex and challenging flavour profiles that balance sweetness with bitter and sour notes is growing. Serving up London Essence Company Crafted Sodas – available in adventurous flavours such as Roasted Pineapple and White Peach & Jasmine – or Britvic Pink Raspberry and Elderflower Tonics can help operators meet that demand.

The value in versatility

In the age of Instagram, TikTok and near universal internet access, drinks don’t just need to taste good; they need to look the part too. Providing a wide range of well-presented drinks takes time, skill and space. However, just like other industries, the hospitality sector is battling chronic staff shortages, with Britain’s on-trade venues estimated to have lost 16% of their revenue due to understaffing.

We have several solutions for operators looking to become more versatile and add value with a wider range of soft drinks. The London Essence Company Freshly Infused dispense system allows bar staff to serve drinks including Pomelo & Pink Pepper and Grapefruit & Rosemary Tonics at the touch of a button. Mathieu Teisseire flavoured syrups help operators up their cocktail game with less effort too.

Pairing (and sharing) is caring

It also pays to pair soft drinks with food in a similar way to how sommeliers have long partnered certain wines and spirits with specific dishes. Offering linked deals can help improve diners’ perception of value while also raising average spend. Try linking burgers with Pepsi MAX or 7Up Zero, curries with London Essence Company Spiced Ginger Beer or sophisticated seafood dishes with house signature mocktails.

Sharing is also caring when it comes to soft drinks. People are coming together in the wake of the pandemic and many outlets are doing a roaring trade in platters and dishes such as Cajun seafood boils and smorgasbords that are best shared. Offering sharing jugs of house mocktails or buckets of premium soft drinks such as J2O or London Essence Company Sodas can help soft drinks rise to the occasion.

View our Food & Drink Pairing Guide

The value in versatility

While it’s true that people generally visit Britain’s pubs, clubs and restaurants to indulge themselves and let their hair down, this doesn’t mean they’re prepared to forego their health consciousness. Hence the growing number of outlets that are offering soft drinks with added functional health benefits, such as Purdey’s Natural Energy Drinks and Plenish Health Shots.

Consider pairing such products with healthier snacks and main dishes at different times to appeal to consumers’ changing needs throughout the day. Generally speaking, demand for healthier products is greatest earlier in the day and the week – try pairing Plenish Health Shots with breakfast granola pots first thing or Purdey’s Natural Energy with fresh fruit for healthy mid-morning snacks to add value.

By thinking differently about soft drinks in these ways and more, out-of-home operators can add fizz to their businesses. For more tips on driving value into your soft drinks sales and taking a slice of the £170m prize we have identified, download the 2023 Britvic Soft Drinks Review below.

Opens in a new window Download the Britvic Soft Drinks Review

[1] CGA, November 2022, calculations based on 500m tap water occasions, trading up 10% of tap water consumers to a soft drink, or an elevated soft drink, based on a soft drink cost of £2.52 and elevated cost of £3.7