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Changing lifestyles after Covid-19 present ‘anytime’ opportunities for soft drinks in foodservice

2nd Dec 2021 - 05:00
As normality returns, traditional meal times are less rigid and the line is blurring between foodservice and food to go once again. It adds up to a 'thirst-quenching opportunity' for soft drink sales, says Katy Watts head of channel development at Britvic.

As the trade enters a ‘new normal’, the differences we’re seeing at Britvic in consumers’ lives and behaviours, present fresh opportunities for foodservice operators and the soft drinks category.

The first change is when consumers spend

From Lumina Intelligence’s research, we can see people are making more visits to foodservice outlets outside traditional peak meal times.

In particular, they are increasing their afternoon snacking, one of the less impacted occasions from the pandemic, resulting in a chance to grow sales with ‘lower-ticket’ promotions.

Traditional times of the day for meals out of home were already blurring before Covid-19, but the trend is more obvious now because our working lives have changed.

Consumers are looking at all times of day for meal and snack solutions, including a soft drink, which are convenient and meet their needs as and when.

Enjoyment still remains the number one reason to choose a soft drink– so great taste from trusted brands is key, from Pepsi MAX and Tango, to Robinsons Ready to Drink and Fruit Shoot, which can all be enjoyed on-the-go.

The second change is where consumers spend

As the British public enjoys renewed freedom to get out and about, they ‘eat now,’ wherever hunger strikes. The various foodservice and food to go formats continue to evolve, and in places, cross over.

This has been happening for years, of course, but post-Covid many operators are exploring the possibilities with renewed enthusiasm. Among them, Carluccio is trialling different in-store food to go items, Sainsbury’s is looking at eat-in concepts, and Pret a Manger has opened store concessions in Tesco.

The IGD talks of the total food to go market seeing a faster than predicted return to growth, with shoppers using different channels and operators to complete missions. Foodservice food to go’s growth is expected to outpace that of retail food to go between now and 2026.

Whatever happens next, soft drinks stand to benefit by being versatile, relevant, available all day and suitable across age groups and occasions.

Soft drinks are one of the few categories you can enjoy at breakfast, lunch and dinner, when snacking, or whenever you want a refreshing pick me up. And of course, people consume soft drinks on the go and at home, both of which could be picked up at foodservice outlets.

Soft Drinks, Hard Facts

UK outdoor dining reopened in the last week of quarter two, having largely pivoted in the lockdown to deliveries and takeaways.

Consumers showed preference to soft drinks during this time, with this drink type increasing share by +2.9ppts overall. This gain versus the previous quarter, confirms the soft drinks category’s resilience, reflected in Britvic’s 2021 Soft Drinks Review.

Over this period, breakfast and dinner's share of meal occasions remained steady, up just +0.3% and +0.5%. Dinner gained 6.4% time of day share, while lunch lost -2.3%. The significant gain was in afternoon snacking.

April to June saw average out of home foodservice spends decreasing, with smaller, value for money items proving more attractive to cash-careful consumers.

This trend fits in with a fifth of consumers saying their financial situation was worse than before the pandemic, rising to 28% of 18-24’s. However, a second fifth felt better off, peaking at 23% of consumers aged 65 and over.

What happens now?

As consumers get out more and our changed working lives blur the traditional times of day for out of home meals, foodservice operators need to offer a range of food and drink that is relevant across all times of day. This includes those for first thing in the morning, snacks in the afternoon and for evening occasions.

The six drivers of the soft drinks growth opportunity

At Britvic we have identified six soft drink category growth drivers which can help operators unlock sales.

Fitting in with the blurring of the different foodservice channels and times of day, these drivers will result in more consumers buying more soft drinks over the 24-hour day:

  • Choiceful about sugar: A third of the population are trying to reduce sugar in their diet
  • Benefits for my body: People are seeking added benefits from food and drink, to help them look and feel healthy
  • Go with my flow: In the foodservice space, consumers are looking for drinks that meet their needs across the day, throughout the year
  • Elevate my experience: 70% of premium soft drink consumers wanting to see more of these options in pubs, bars and restaurants
  • Always available with food: Soft drinks continue to be the perfect partners to food, at meal times or with snacks.
  • Keep it real: At Britvic, we are working with our channel partners across the sectors to address the challenges of sustainability

Visit for advice, recipes and ideas on how to get creative with your soft drinks offering.

Written by
Edward Waddell