As drinking trends come and go, sodas persist

A summer drink or a poetic wax about a new whiskey release to grace the market. But as alcohol declines in popularity, it seems to remain one bar staple: the soft drink.

According to CGA by NielsenIQ’s BeverageTrak service, 43% of US consumers drink soft drinks while on-premise. The average U.S. outlet makes about $22,000 annually from soft drinks (figures for the last 12 weeks through early July 2022), whether it’s fountain gun soda or more craft cans. These drinks include lemonade, juice and soda.

During that past year, checks that included non-alcoholic beverages sat at an average of $53 — people were spending, and ready to drink, soft drinks. Understandably, fine dining, premium bars, and ‘polished casual places’ show the highest check values.

“There are dramatic differences within the soft drinks category, especially when it comes to how consumers make purchase decisions – opportunity and channel play a significant role in the path to purchase,” says Matt Crompton, regional director of Nielsen IQ North America.

The study also noted that energy drinks continue to capture the attention of drinkers, although sports bars are mainly to blame. When it comes to serving, the majority of drinkers in the energy drink category choose to consume this style on their own (56.6%), but nearly a third (32.9%) will also consume it in a cocktail format – a growth opportunity for those interested in it. Hype-up drinks.

Digging into the top brands, cola reigned supreme, with three top-selling soft drink brands in that category. Cola also topped their high-end ‘Polish Casual’ restaurant channel and Cola appeared in premium bars and high-priced checks in fine dining.

But while we see sodas booming, traditional cola flavors are falling behind—those flavors are set to decline by 4.3% in volume in 2020, according to a GlobalData report. Instead, consumers are looking for more creative options in things like craft soda to infused sparkling water. With hemp and adaptogens in a photo-friendly can.

What can marketers and brands take away from this information?

Perhaps that soda is feeling more relevant than ever. The global carbonated soft drinks market size was estimated at USD 221.55 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 237.04 billion in 2021.

Data firm Grandview Research reports that the global carbonated soft drink market size is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 4.7% from 2021 to 2028. The report notes that “modern-day consumers can be seen focusing on convenience, and thus a larger portion of an everyday purchase consists of single grab-and-go products rather than traditional bulk purchase products,” the report reads. “This has led to shelf-stable innovations and eco-friendly packaging made from clean, renewable materials, and fewer preservatives and chemicals.”

Previously, there was a single culture of flavors in the soda space – household brands with recognizable labels. Now, there’s a new gaggle of craft sodas that make it more exciting than ever to pop the tab. In 2013, Fever-Tree burst onto the market with the mantra, ‘If 75% of your drink is a mixer, why not a better mixer?’ In 2021, Fever-Tree generated 311.1 million (pounds) in revenue, up 23% from a year earlier. The British mixer brand cited ‘significant momentum’ in the US as the reason for the increase.

Also, on the alcohol side of things, Blake Lively has Betty Buzz – cute cans of sparkling soda that work well when topped with alcohol. Major breweries are starting to make hop waters—the beer world’s answer to no-alk soda.

Hella Bitters has great sodas and bitters, and Greenbar in Los Angeles now makes UnSpritz. Ghia makes beautiful sparkling aperitifs, as does Giglia—both scratching the itch for alcohol replacements or soda alternatives. Such soda(ish) feel in step with the ever-growing non-alcoholic space — as the Quiet Curious movement takes hold, (non)drinkers want something that feels less infantile than a nostalgic can of cola. These new brands offer all the convenience of traditional soda, but with flavors and designs that feel more in line with adult lifestyles.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.