The UK soft drinks market grew by 2% in value in 2009, enough for sales in the on-trade to climb ahead of spirits to take the number two spot behind beer.

And with many major UK soft drinks firms churning out strong growth results, its no wonder soft drink sales in the UK totalled GBP8.5bn (US$12.7bn) across all channels in 2009.

Only last week AG Barr said it had “significantly outperformed” the UK soft drinks market in 2009, booking a 20.8% rise in full-year adjusted pre-tax profits boosted by strong growth in its carbonate brands.

The Scottish drinks maker saw profits before tax for the 12 month period rise to GBP24.5m, an increase on the prior year of 5.3% after charging exceptional items of GBP3.4m.

Strong sales for the Vimto drink also helped soft drinks firm Nichols to report a jump in sales and profits for 2009.

Nichols net profits for 2009 reached GBP8.3m, against GBP2.9m in the previous year.

Britvic, the UK's largest soft drinks group, reported an increase in first quarter sales only this month. Net sales rose by 11% to GBP242.7m for the 12 weeks to 20 December 2009. The firm produces Robinsons squash and Tango, as well as holding the licence for PepsiCo drinks.

The major firms are clearly buoying UK sales, suggesting that consumers are sticking to the big brands that they know - and clearly love.