Premium Soft Drinks: The only way is up

We know that people are increasingly drinking less, but when they do drink they want premium options. On days when alcohol is off the menu this rule still applies – and in the soft drinks sector it’s the premium options that are soaring.

“These are great times for premium soft drinks,” says Graham Carr-Smith, creator of soft drinks brand Qcumber. “Consumers’ minds are more open than ever to trying new brands, new flavours and new packaging formats.

“But as, or even more, important, the benefits of stocking an up-scale soft drinks range that challenges some of the established norms have really hit home with a growing number of switched-on retailers.”

Qcumber is a blend of sparkling cucumber and spring water, which Carr-Smith says is a simple concept, but he adds: “Simple ideas are invariably the best ones and, importantly, the ones most readily understood by busy shoppers.”

The producer has added two flavours to the range: Qcumber with Mint and Qcumber with Ginger, and more recently it added Qcumber Premium Mixer.

The latter is available in four-packs of 20cl crown-cap bottles.

Carr-Smith adds: “The G&Q is already established as a contemporary interpretation of the classic G&T combination, and our mixer is helping to build this popularity.”

Natural and health-focused products tend to be the premium drinks of choice, and producers are investing heavily in this area.

Britvic is putting its weight behind its premium multivitamin brand, Purdey’s, investing in the continuation of its #ThriveOn campaign, partnering with actor Idris Elba for the second year running. Britvic also plans to support retailers with the campaign with in- store activations.

Marketing manager Grainne Saunders says: “There is a clear opportunity for further growth of the energy category. We are confident that Purdey’s will continue to help retailers make the most of this opportunity and ensure their profits thrive too.”

Low-calorie is another driver. Mintel data shows that most of the growth in the overall carbonated soft drinks (CSD) market between 2013 and 2015 came from low/no/reduced-sugar variants.

Alice Baker, a research analyst at Mintel, says: “The sugar tax is likely to have a severe impact on CSD sales in 2018, and as such is the single biggest challenge facing the industry.

“However, drinkers’ inclinations to switch to low-sugar versions and the strength of consumer demand for action on the sugar issue suggest that companies seen as proactive on this matter stand in good stead of shoring up their reputation among consumers.”


With the continued interest in premium spirits it stands to reason that activity in the tonic and mixers category is escalating.

Research by Mintel shows that mixers were the strongest performers in the UK carbonated soft drinks market between 2013 and 2015.

Over the past year or so there has been a wave of new entrants into tonic, with numerous producers revealing products that promise natural ingredients and refreshing properties. In addition, many established tonic producers have upped their game by increasing their investment in the category.

Of the newcomers into this sector, some are small start-up producers while others have the backing of a higher-profile umbrella company.

Just this month, Halewood Wine & Spirits announced it would be adding tonic to its portfolio with the launch of Lamb & Watt, a four- strong range of premium tonics. The drinks – in flavours of Original, Hibiscus, Cucumber and Basil – are made with Halewood’s own Willow mineral water from the Lake District, quinine from the cinchona tree and organic blue agave from Mexico.

Halewood says the Lamb & Watt brand, which was originally founded in 1847 by a Mr Lamb and a Mr Watt, has been launched in line with its own emphasis on premium spirits.

Leanne Ware, brand manager, says: “The tonic category is in growth as consumers are looking for high-quality mixers to complement their premium spirit choices.

“In response to this growth, we have created Lamb & Watt partly to complement our own expanding premium spirits offering but also to make our mark on the premium tonic category.”

Last month Luscombe Drinks announced it would be adding premium tonic water to its portfolio. The producer added Devon Tonic Water, Elderflower Tonic Water and Grapefruit Tonic Water in 20cl bottles.

Founder Gabriel David says: “Given the phenomenal rise in craft spirits, we have had a number of requests from our trade customers for a range of super-premium tonics that will enhance – rather than compete with – the complex flavours of these artisan spirits.”

Last October Britvic revealed a complete relaunch of its iconic Britvic mixers and juices range. As part of this activity, Britvic’s Indian Tonic Water has been refreshed.

And Global Brands has added to its soft drink and mixer brand Franklin & Sons with Valencian Orange & Pink Grapefruit with Lemongrass and 1886 Cola with West African Kola Nut & Columbian Coffee Bean.

Brand controller Justin Horsman says: “With these flavours we wanted to increase our offering of soft drinks. These additions are great individual flavours but will also pair well with spirits.”

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