The drinks category is growing, but this year’s sporting summer, including Euro 2016, will provide new opportunities to boost sales, discovers Simon King

With UK consumer confidence improving last year, the drinks category grew, driven by promotions and brand innovation.

This year’s summer of sport, with UEFA Euro 2016 and the Olympic Games taking place, is set to benefit the category further. There’s the added benefit of Euro 2016 being a longer tournament, with more matches; but more home nations are taking part, too – England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are all competing.

Jessica Markowski, AB InBev’s head of trade marketing for Northern Europe, says the challenge for wholesalers is timing any promotions and push surrounding important events and seasonal offerings.

Markowski says: “Wholesalers need to be activating these at least four weeks before the event takes place, providing independent traders and on-trade venues with the chance to buy products and feed these into stores and establishments before the activity begins.

“There is no point activating Stella Artois and Wimbledon in June because the event is already under way. Wholesalers should inform stores as early as possible about any activities, while still ensuring a big bang is made around the time of the event as well. In doing so, wholesalers will increase the likelihood of boosting sales.”

Carlsberg Euro 2016Carlsberg is the official beer of UEFA Euro 2016 and the England team, and the brand has created retail display units and point-of-sale kits that include fixture lists.

Meanwhile, Foster’s is to be the official lager of England cricket, after signing a two-year deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board.

New products have driven the resurgence of cider in the past 10 years, with fruit cider the fastest growing segment, experiencing double-digit growth last year.

Daf Pugh Williams, senior innovation commercialisation at Diageo GB, says: “Flavoured ciders are successfully recruiting a new generation into the category, providing consumers with a credible and authentic way to enjoy sweeter liquids.”

Jodie Alliss, senior marketing manager at Kopparberg, says: “We’ve avoided the flavour conveyor belt and instead, we focus on delivering an exciting and innovative portfolio.

“We plan on continuing this trend through 2016 and we encourage wholesalers to do the same with the ranges that they stock in the run-up to summer, to make the most of these key trading periods. That means supporting the big hitters, the proven winners and the true innovators within the fruit cider category.”

Emma Sherwood-Smith, Heineken’s brand unit director – cider brands, says: “Bulmers Zesty Blood Orange was the biggest cider launched last year. It brought one million people into the Bulmers brand, 50% of whom were new to the cider category, which is good news for retailers.”

Merrydown VintageSHS Drinks’s brand portfolio includes Merrydown Cider, the number two heritage cider brand by volume in impulse stores according to Nielsen Scantrack.

Debs Carter, marketing director – ­alcohol at SHS Drinks, says: “Glass-bottled ciders (GBC) generate around £79m a year in sales through impulse stores, which account for almost a quarter of total take-home GBC sales value and 19% of total take-home volume.

“While this demonstrates that cash & carries and delivered wholesalers are clearly important trading channels for the GBC category as a whole, they make an even bigger contribution to Merry­down Cider’s success as almost half of Merrydown’s take-home volume is sold through the impulse sector.”

Carter says the importance of the 750ml bottle shouldn’t be under­estimated by wholesalers and points to bottle size as being an important selling point.

“We have found some resistance to stocking Merrydown Vintage because of the bottle size,” says Carter, “but while it may be larger than the usual 500ml bottles favoured by most cider brands, it is no taller than a bottle of wine.

“As a result, any cash & carries or wholesalers not stocking Merrydown Vintage 750ml bottles are missing out on an important sales opportunity.”

Despite accounting for just 2% of total beer volume, the craft beer market is growing at 32% in volume, with 500,000 new consumers entering it within the past 12 months, according to Nielsen Homescan.

Guy Dodwell, off trade sales director at Diageo GB, says: “This trend clearly demonstrates that consumers are seeking choice, diversity and exploration with the beer category.”


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