Could adhering to health guidelines spell trouble for soft drinks?

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Location: England

Blindly catering to natural product and health trends in the UK soft drinks sector can send ‘mixed messages’ and fall flat, a senior consumer insights analyst has cautioned.

‘In a crowded market place it is vital for producers to take note of health trends and offer products that cater for this,’ Melanie Felgate, GlobalData senior consumer insights analyst, told Imbibe. ‘But, this doesn’t necessarily mean altering existing products.’

‘Existing brands can still tap into natural and healthy trends in other ways, for example by offering new flavours with a healthier perception,’ said Melanie Felgate

Felgate said companies should look no further than Coca Cola to see the potential pitfalls. ‘Coca Cola Life for example has failed to take-off because the branding conflicted with the healthy and natural positioning Coke Life was trying to offer, sending mixed signals to consumers,’ Felgate said. ‘Producers would be better placed to develop new brands that meet the need for healthier, more natural options, rather than trying to fit these attributes into existing brand portfolios.

‘For example, PepsiCo recently acquired probiotic beverage brand KeVita to capitalise on the healthy beverage market, rather than trying to introduce a probiotic variant of one of its existing brands.’

It may be a tall ask, but the analyst said it’s not an impossible one. ‘Existing brands can still tap into natural and healthy trends in other ways, for example by offering new flavours with a healthier perception. Pepsi has just launched a ginger variant of Pepsi Max in the UK, tapping into the positive perceptions around ginger as a natural and healthy ingredient.’

What constitutes as a healthy beverage in UK minds varies considerably from the wider global trend, according to Felgate. ‘British consumers are less interested in added functionality, and instead favour products which are naturally healthy, such natural ingredients and lower sugar options.’

When it comes to sugar, 43% of UK consumers are said to be proactively trying to reduce their consumption of sugar.

‘What UK consumers want in the off-trade and on-trade are actually very similar’, Felgate said. ‘But their purchase decisions are often limited by the choices available. There is a lot of opportunity for wider choice of soft drinks on-trade to cater to the growing numbers avoiding alcohol, whether for health or other reasons.

‘The natural trend is only going to get stronger, and consumers want healthy natural soft drinks, whether for consumption at home or out of home.’

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