Sports and energy drinks have consistently outperformed rivals in the European beverages sector over the last five years, showing average value growth of 14.5% a year in a soft drinks market growing at a modest 2.7% a year, according to new research by RTS Resource.
While volume growth (at 14.8%) slightly outstripped value growth as the market became more competitive and more own-label variants of well-known brands hit shelves, the European market for energy and sports drinks was now worth a hefty €4.2bn at retail value, said RTS. "The sports and energy sub-segment should continue to outperform all others in terms of year-on-year growth, at least for the next five years," it added.
The other star performer in the soft drinks aisles during 2001-6 was bottled water, which despite its maturity, continued to defy expectations with consumption growing 3.3% on average year-on-year over the period, said RTS.
Average value growth was even higher at 3.7%. While consumption of carbonated soft drinks slumped by 0.2bn litres over the five-year period, Europeans guzzled through an extra 6.5bn litres of bottled water, dwarfing the extra volume coming from juices, nectars and smoothies (0.9bn litres); and other soft drinks such as sports drinks, health drinks, dilutables and ready-to-drink tea and coffee (2.5bn litres). This, said RTS, was a "stunning performance as, by weight, it is larger than the gains made by all other food and drink segments over this period"
Although the soft drinks market has outperformed the food market in recent years, performances have been patchy and showed signs of slowing down, said RTS.
"Volume growth in some countries (Sweden and Denmark) actually declined over the period, while other markets hardly grew at all (Austria, Ireland, The Netherlands)." The highest average annual volume growth rates were enjoyed in Spain (4.3%), Portugal (3.2%) and the UK (2.6%) compared to the EU average of 2.2%.
However, there were many opportunities to drive volumes in higher margin segments, with large discrepancies in consumption of these products between different Member States, said RTS.
For example, average consumption of juices, nectars and smoothies, per person, per year, was 40 litres in Germany and 33.6 litres in Finland, compared to just 25 litres per person in Austria, the UK, Spain and the Netherlands, said RTS. "Consumers are willing to pay more for products with perceived additional benefits."