“Fewer and fewer people are drinking alcohol,” said Britvic UK md Paul Graham. “How do you give them a soft drink that’s grown-up and sophisticated? That is a fantastic opportunity.”
Graham, speaking in a debate about the future of ‘better-for-you’ soft drinks at the Food Matters Live (FML) event, held in London in November, pointed to research indicating growing numbers of self-declared teetotallers among millennials.
Research published in 2015 by think tank Demos showed that 19% of those in the 16–24 age bracket said they did not drink, with 66% saying alcohol was not important for their social life.
Did not drink alcohol
In a separate FML presentation, Britvic sustainable business manager Alison Rothnie referred to Office for National Statistics figures from 2014 suggesting that one-in-five British adults did not drink alcohol.
She highlighted the role of Britvic’s WiseHead Productions incubator business. The first product launched by WiseHead in the summer of 2016 was Thomas & Evans No. 1, a sparkling ‘zero proof’ drink flavoured with citrus and botanicals.
“It is produced via the same process as alcohol, but is zero percent proof,” said Rothnie. “It includes no added sugar and has a low calorie count.” It also uses no alternative sweeteners.
While the adult juice-based J2O brand and Spritz variants are identified closely with Britvic and backed by a substantial advertising spend, the company appeared to suggest that niche brands with a quirky-but-traditional appeal benefit from more of an arm’s-length approach.
Among the exhibitors at FML was German-based soft drinks brand-owner Baikal, whose boss Joris van Velzen compared “slick” brands such as J2O with alternative brands sporting a craft or handmade image, such as Fentimans.
“Some people go for funkier brands displaying more self-irony,” said van Velzen. “And there is a sub-culture that is looking for a story, and for the sense that there is a bunch of enthusiastic people behind the brand.”
His Wostok range of adult soft drinks debuted in Germany in 2010 with a revival of the 1970s Baikal drink from the USSR, flavoured with pine needle oil.