Health was a topic of focus at the soft drinks industry conference

Health was a topic of focus at the soft drinks industry conference

Pressure from consumers and authorities for healthier soft drinks dominated a meeting of the key movers and shakers in the UK soft drinks industry late last week.

Executives from the likes of Pepsi UK and Ireland, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) and Silver Spring Soft Drinks attended the 2010 UK Soft Drinks Industry Conference, organised by Zenith International.

Victoria Milne, senior analyst for Zenith, forecast that the industry should expect a boost in consumption in the country in 2012, when the Olympics come to the UK.

While the country's soft drinks industry has experienced steady growth over the last ten years, Milne predicted that health and growing awareness of the five-a-day concept will boost the category further going forward.

With these opening remarks, she set in motion a recurring health and wellness theme for the conference.

General manager of Pepsi UK and Ireland, Garrett Quigley, followed Milne, insisting that drinks brands must “lead the way” in encouraging consumers to switch to healthier and non-sugar alternatives.

Quigley told attendees that the soft drinks industry can make a difference to the diets of the UK population if it changes the way it markets products.

He added that the pressure is on brands to reinforce the health and wellness message through their marketing and advertising efforts.

Simon Baldry, managing director for Coca-Cola Enterprises, told attendees: “The key is educating the trade on the role of soft drinks and the kind of marketing initiatives in this environment.”

The afternoon session saw energy drink firms Boost Drinks and Go Fast UK address attendees.

Kris Yule, managing director of Go Fast UK, told delegates that the next generation of drinks will use “alternative and herbal” ingredients to provide a healthier alternative.

“The opportunity for functional energy drinks is to reach out to the female consumers," Yule said. "It’s something that hasn’t happened yet.”

Low and no added sugar drinks make up 61% of the UK soft drinks market by volume, according to the British Soft Drinks Association, which recently criticised Foods Standard Agency targets that called on soft drinks producers to reduce their use of added sugar and offer smaller pack sizes for full sugar drinks.

The BSDA believes that an emphasis on the importance of a balanced diet and active lifestyle would be more beneficial than arbitrary targets.

Zenith figures showed that the CSD category, generally targeted by media and campaigners as the most unhealthy soft drinks category, was the only category that did not see market share increase in 2009.