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  1. Interviews
December 16, 2021

The future of soft drinks – Peter Harding, CEO of Suntory Beverage & Food Europe, shares his predictions for 2022

Just Drinks' week of 2022 predictions coverage continues, with Suntory Beverage & Food Europe CEO Peter Harding offering his thoughts on the next 12 months.

By Andy Morton

  • What did you learn from your consumers this year that surprised you?

At Suntory we talk about staying ‘close to the gemba [Japanese term for ‘the real place’]”’ – gaining deep insights from where the value is created. That means our teams across the business have been out in retail and with Horeca [hotel, restaurant and cafe] customers closely observing consumer and shopper patterns of purchase and consumption.

We’ve seen consumption patterns change, drinking occasions evolve and that’s led us to turn the insights into actions and launch new formats, flavours and NPD – for example, Lucozade Alert in the UK, all based on our gemba insights.

  • What have you seen in 2021 that you expect to continue into 2022?

Digitalisation across the board – of communications, marketing, accessibility, working life, e-commerce – a rapid increase that is redefining how we work, shop and interact. This means we need to rapidly look at our own systems and capabilities, skill our teams and ensure we are set up to maximise the opportunity.

The other element we’ve all seen in 2021 is disruption – whether it’s from HGV issues in the UK or the impact on Horeca across Europe caused by the pandemic. We must anticipate that this will continue, but I strongly believe our business is better built to withstand these disruptive events.

We’ve learnt a lot over the last year and our business and people have emerged stronger as a result.

  • How are you feeling about 2022?

We’re going into 2022 off the back of a strong 2021, so we’ll be rolling that positivity right into the New Year. Our Schweppes brand that we sell across mainland Europe is going from strength to strength following our decision to centralise brand communications and be more focused on how we execute with one brand identity across retail and Horeca.

We’ll continue to build on this momentum throughout 2022.

  • What’s going to keep you awake in 2022?

The health and safety of our employees continues to be a priority, of course. I couldn’t be prouder of the resilience everyone has shown to keep our business running – and growing – throughout this pandemic. We’ve recognised that our teams need a good break, so we’ve given all employees an additional three days holiday this year so they can enjoy a real break this Christmas.

What are your and Suntory Beverage & Food Europe’s targets for next year?

We continue to be focused on sustainable profitable growth, and we’ll be ruthless in our prioritisation on our core brands. Alongside this, we’re continuing to evolve our operating model as a business – growing as ‘One Suntory’ – which means creating more unity across our global business, building stronger more aligned structures, driving efficiencies, and looking for opportunities, as well as sharing best practice and deeper collaborations.

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