CGA client director Dave Lancaster

Soft drinks is a vital and fast-changing part of the on-trade, but where will the category go next? CGA’s Dave Lancaster (pictured left) shared some clues at the recent Drink Tank conference.

1 Soft drinks are a quarter of on-trade volume

Soft drinks have a 23.2% share of total wet sales in the on-trade, CGA’s On Premise Measurement service shows—equivalent to 738 million litres a year. Sales by value are up 2.7% year-on-year at £4.6bn, making it a stronger performer than key categories like beer, cider or wine.

2 Mixers and lemonade up, squash and juice down

Mixers is the star player in the soft drinks category, with sales by value up 20.5%. Lemonade (up 5.0%) and cola (up 4.7%) have grown too. At the other end of the scale, squash (down 15.2%), juice drinks (down 6.5%) and flavoured carbs (down 6.6%) have all lost market share in the last year.

3 Consumers want more choice

Our BrandTrack survey shows that more than half (55%) of soft drinks consumers agree that the range on offer is often predictable and boring. Many adults want wider range and better quality. The category has welcomed 304 new launches in the last year—a decent number, but way fewer than beer (1,056) or spirits (698). There is clearly a latent demand for new flavours and innovation.

4 Sugar tax fuels health trend

As well as new tastes, more and more consumers are seeking heathier choices in soft drinks. This trend has been accelerated by the government’s ‘sugar tax’, which has prompted many soft drinks suppliers to roll out new healthy options or reconfigure recipes to reduce sugar. For example, low-sugar cola drinks have seen sales jump 22.4% in the last 12 months, while full-sugar varieties have dropped 13.3%.

5 CBDs and cold brews coming down the line

What’s the next big thing in soft drinks? CGA’s survey of London’s leading bars for the Influencers Report suggests that healthy alternative drinks like CBDs and cold brews, which are on a steep upward curve in the US, could break through here in 2020. As ever, monitoring consumer trends in this fast-moving part of the market is going to be crucial to success.

For more deep insights into the soft drinks category, contact Dave Lancaster.


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