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UK Attitudes to Low/No/Reduced Sugar Soft Drinks Market Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Attitudes to Low/No/Reduced Sugar Soft Drinks market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

This report examines consumer usage of and attitudes towards L/N/R (low, no and reduced) sugar soft drinks and the wider issue of healthiness in soft drinks. For the purposes of this report, soft drinks are taken to include carbonated soft drinks, fruit juice, juice drinks, smoothies, bottled water, flavoured milk, sport drinks, energy drinks, squash cordials and RTD (Ready-To-Drink) tea and coffee.

Hot drinks, alcoholic drinks and alcohol-free variants thereof, as well as meal replacement drinks, are excluded from this Report. Tap water is not defined as a soft drink. The detailed regulatory definitions of low, no, and reduced sugar and calorie thresholds are provided in the Appendix.

Key points covered

  • Health is on most people’s radars in drinks choice, but there’s little scrutiny of details
  • Less sweet drinks warrant attention, sugar concerns remain a barrier
  • ‘No added sugar’ claims are most sought for health

What you need to know

The public spotlight on the healthiness of soft drinks has not gone unnoticed by consumers, most people now thinking of this in their soft drinks choice at least most of the time. However, this only partly translates into action at the point of choice, flavour taking the lead as the top factor checked.

Sugar is by far the leading consideration when it comes to the healthiness of soft drinks. However, added and intrinsic sugar continue to divide people, the former in the lead, with very few people seeking both. Meanwhile, nutrition details or ingredients get overlooked by most when choosing a dink. This puts the onus on healthier drinks to put their credentials forward in a prominent and easy-to-grasp manner to fully benefit from them. It also underlines the formidable task still facing the PHE (Public Health England) in helping consumers navigate their drinks choice.

Healthy drinks and communicating such credentials in a compelling way continue to warrant attention, given their scope to keep users engaged. While a sizeable minority of people report reduced intake of soft drinks, those seeing their drinks choices as always healthy are the most likely to be drinking more.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Kiti Soininen, a leading analyst in the Food & Drink sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The public spotlight on soft drinks has ensured that most users claim to try to make healthy choices at least most of the time. However, this typically stops at checking the added-sugar credentials of drinks, very few people scrutinising their ingredients or nutrition details. This puts the onus on healthier drinks to prominently communicate their permissible credentials, in the most relevant terms for consumers, to fully benefit from such selling points. Kiti Soininen
Head of UK Food, Drink and Foodservice Research

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Report scope
      • Executive Summary

          • The market
            • The Soft Drinks Industry Levy came into force in April 2018
              • Targets set for sugar reduction for fruit juice and milk-based drinks
                • Healthy eating is high on consumers’ radars, with sugar the top concern
                  • Companies and brands
                    • Reformulation has been the rule, not exception, for the major brands
                      • Sharp rise in share of launches undercutting SDIL sugar threshold
                        • Figure 1: Share of new soft drinks launches, by sugar content, 2015-18
                      • L/N/R sugar claims gain share, with ‘no added sugar’ growing
                        • Figure 2: Launches making L/N/R sugar or L/N/R calorie claims, of all new soft drinks launches, 2014-18
                      • Stevia remains rare, but being adopted for ‘no artificial ingredients’
                        • Non-sweet soft drinks make an appearance
                          • Little boost to soft drinks adspend to meet SDIL
                            • Coke brands dominate low/no-sugar adspend
                              • Flavour is the focus for Coke Zero Sugar and Pepsi Max
                                • The consumer
                                  • Everyone drinks soft drinks, and nearly all drink ‘lighter’ versions
                                    • A quarter of users cut back on soft drinks, healthy drinkers most likely to up intake
                                      • Figure 3: Changes to soft drinks intake compared to a year ago, September 2018
                                    • SDIL plays little role in cutbacks
                                      • Figure 4: Reasons for cutting back on soft drinks compared to a year ago, September 2018
                                    • Flavour leads in soft drinks choice, added sugar beats nutrition
                                      • Figure 5: Details checked on-pack when selecting a soft drink, September 2018
                                    • Most people think of healthiness of drinks most of the time
                                      • Figure 6: To what extent people try to drink healthy soft drinks, September 2018
                                    • Sugar leads among health considerations
                                      • Figure 7: Important factors when choosing a healthy soft drink, September 2018
                                    • Most people noticed ‘sugar tax’ headlines, fewer spotted changes to familiar drinks
                                      • Figure 8: Awareness of news and changes in the market, September 2018
                                    • Nearly everyone thinks their soft drinks intake is low
                                      • Figure 9: Attitudes and behaviours related to soft drinks, September 2018
                                    • What we think
                                    • Issues and Insights

                                      • Health is on most people’s radars in drinks choice, but there’s little scrutiny of details
                                        • The facts
                                          • The implications
                                            • ‘No added sugar’ claims are most sought for health
                                              • The facts
                                                • The implications
                                                  • Less sweet drinks warrant attention, sugar concerns remain a barrier
                                                    • The facts
                                                      • The implications
                                                      • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                                        • The Soft Drinks Industry Levy came into force in April 2018
                                                          • Targets set for sugar reduction for fruit juice and milk-based drinks
                                                            • Healthy eating is high on consumers’ radars, with sugar the top concern
                                                            • Market Drivers

                                                              • The Soft Drinks Industry Levy came into force in April 2018
                                                                • Levy applies from 5g of sugar per 100ml
                                                                  • EFSA low-sugar threshold undercuts the SDIL threshold
                                                                    • Targets set for sugar reduction for fruit juice and milk-based drinks
                                                                      • Healthy eating is high on consumers’ radars, with sugar the top concern
                                                                        • PHE and media put sugar in the spotlight
                                                                          • More people strive to eat healthily
                                                                            • Sweeteners make negative headlines
                                                                            • Companies and Brands – What You Need to Know

                                                                              • Reformulation has been the rule, not exception, for the major brands
                                                                                • Sharp rise in share of launches undercutting SDIL sugar threshold
                                                                                  • L/N/R sugar claims gain share, with ‘no added sugar’ growing
                                                                                    • Stevia remains rare, but has been adopted for ‘no artificial ingredients’
                                                                                      • Non-sweet soft drinks make an appearance
                                                                                        • Little boost to soft drinks adspend to meet SDIL
                                                                                          • Coke brands dominate low/no-sugar adspend
                                                                                            • Flavour is the focus for Coke Zero Sugar and Pepsi Max
                                                                                            • Reformulation Landscape

                                                                                              • Reformulation has been the rule for the major brands
                                                                                                • Britvic
                                                                                                  • Coca-Cola
                                                                                                    • Lucozade Ribena Suntory
                                                                                                      • Nestlé
                                                                                                        • Danone Waters
                                                                                                          • Red Bull
                                                                                                            • A.G. Barr
                                                                                                              • Nichols
                                                                                                                • Own-label
                                                                                                                • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                                  • Sharp rise in share of launches undercutting SDIL sugar threshold
                                                                                                                    • Figure 10: Share of new soft drinks launches, by sugar content, 2015-18
                                                                                                                  • Juice-based drinks and smaller and premium brands fuel NPD above SDIL limit
                                                                                                                    • Figure 11: New soft drinks launches with 5g of sugar or more per 100ml, by category, 2014-18
                                                                                                                  • L/N/R sugar claims gain share
                                                                                                                    • Figure 12: Launches making L/N/R sugar or L/N/R calorie claims, of all new soft drinks launches, by category, 2014-18
                                                                                                                  • NPD focus is on sugar, not calories
                                                                                                                    • Wider range of launches focus on ‘no added sugar’ and forgo ‘zero’ and ‘diet’ claims
                                                                                                                      • Figure 13: Examples of low/no-sugar/calorie soft drinks launches not highlighting these claims, 2017-18
                                                                                                                    • Coke redesigns Zero Sugar range to look more like original
                                                                                                                      • Many ‘light’ drinks spotlight sugar reduction
                                                                                                                        • Figure 14: Examples of soft drinks launches highlighting their lower-sugar proposition, 2017-18
                                                                                                                      • Specific calorie claims feature on front of pack
                                                                                                                        • Figure 15: Examples of soft drinks launches highlighting the number of calories, 2018
                                                                                                                      • Stevia remains rare, but has been adopted by many leading players
                                                                                                                        • Figure 16: Examples of soft drinks launches using stevia, 2017-18
                                                                                                                      • Non-sweet soft drinks make an appearance
                                                                                                                        • Non-sweet flavours remain rare
                                                                                                                          • Figure 17: New soft drinks launches with vegetable and tea flavour components, 2014-18
                                                                                                                          • Figure 18: Examples of soft drinks launches with tea and vegetable flavours, 2018
                                                                                                                        • Unsweetened flavoured drinks
                                                                                                                          • Figure 19: Examples of soft drinks launches with no sugar and no sweeteners, 2017-18
                                                                                                                        • Successfully communicating taste
                                                                                                                          • Figure 20: Examples of L/N/R sugar/calorie soft drink launches with a strong image as ‘tasty’, April-August 2018
                                                                                                                      • Advertising and Marketing Activity

                                                                                                                        • Little boost to soft drinks adspend to meet SDIL
                                                                                                                          • Figure 21: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on soft drinks, by month, 2015-18
                                                                                                                        • Low/no sugar accounts for a small share of soft drinks adspend
                                                                                                                          • Limited focus on sugar credentials is warranted
                                                                                                                            • Figure 22: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on soft drinks, by category, 2015-18
                                                                                                                          • Coke brands dominate low/no-sugar adspend
                                                                                                                            • Figure 23: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on low-sugar/sugar-free soft drinks, by highest-spending brands, 2015-18
                                                                                                                          • Coke Zero Sugar focuses on taste
                                                                                                                            • ‘First taste’ ad centres on the surprisingly winning flavour of Coke Zero Sugar
                                                                                                                              • Figure 24: Coca-Cola Zero Sugar ‘First Taste’, January 2018
                                                                                                                            • ‘One way or another’ ad puts the focus on ‘original taste’
                                                                                                                              • Figure 25: Coca-Cola Zero Sugar ‘One Way or Another’, January 2018
                                                                                                                            • Classic Coke focuses on its authentic flavour
                                                                                                                              • Figure 26: Coca-Cola Classic ‘We do’, April 2018
                                                                                                                            • Diet Coke brand refresh centres on ‘Because I can’
                                                                                                                              • Figure 27: Diet Coke ‘Because I can’, February 2018
                                                                                                                            • Pepsi Max relaunches taste challenge in 2018
                                                                                                                              • Figure 28: Pepsi Max ‘Taste Challenge’, July 2018
                                                                                                                            • Robinsons eschews low-sugar references
                                                                                                                              • Fruit Creations ad campaign focuses on ‘grown-up’ positioning
                                                                                                                                • Figure 29: Robinsons Fruit Creations ‘Listen Up’, January 2018
                                                                                                                              • Robinsons Refresh’d marketing centres on real ingredients
                                                                                                                                • Figure 30: Robinsons Refresh’d, June 2017
                                                                                                                              • Nielsen Ad Intel coverage
                                                                                                                              • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                                • Everyone drinks soft drinks, and nearly all drink ‘lighter’ versions
                                                                                                                                  • A quarter of users report lower intake of soft drinks
                                                                                                                                    • Healthy drinkers most likely to be upping intake
                                                                                                                                      • SDIL plays little role in cutbacks
                                                                                                                                        • Flavour leads in soft drinks choice, added sugar beats nutrition
                                                                                                                                          • Most people think of healthiness of drinks most of the time
                                                                                                                                            • Sugar leads among health considerations
                                                                                                                                              • Most people noticed ‘sugar tax’ headlines, fewer spotted changes to familiar drinks
                                                                                                                                                • Nearly everyone thinks their soft drinks intake is low
                                                                                                                                                  • Opportunities for less sweet flavours tempered by concerns over hidden sugar
                                                                                                                                                  • Soft Drinks Usage

                                                                                                                                                    • Everyone drinks soft drinks
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 31: Types of soft drinks drunk in the last month, September 2018
                                                                                                                                                    • Lower-sugar/calorie variants are a majority choice
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 32: Share of category users drinking low/no-sugar/calorie variants, by type of soft drink, September 2018
                                                                                                                                                    • Low reported uptake of lighter variants in squash
                                                                                                                                                      • The high openness to lighter variants among under-55s is good news
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 33: Share of soft drinks users drinking low/no-sugar/calorie variants, by age and gross household income, September 2018
                                                                                                                                                    • Changes to Soft Drinks Usage

                                                                                                                                                      • A quarter of users report reduced intake
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 34: Changes to soft drinks intake compared to a year ago, September 2018
                                                                                                                                                      • A third of 16-34s have cut back on soft drinks
                                                                                                                                                        • Healthy drinkers most likely to report upping intake
                                                                                                                                                          • Parents and men drive higher uptake among under-35s
                                                                                                                                                            • SDIL plays little role in cutbacks
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 35: Reasons for drinking less soft drinks compared to a year ago, September 2018
                                                                                                                                                          • Soft Drinks On-Pack Choice Factors

                                                                                                                                                            • Flavour is paramount
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 36: Details checked on-pack when selecting a soft drink, September 2018
                                                                                                                                                            • Added sugar gets checked more than nutritional details
                                                                                                                                                              • Onus is on PHE and the industry to help users navigate healthy choices
                                                                                                                                                                • Young men are more switched on to nutrition than old
                                                                                                                                                                • Importance of Healthiness in Soft Drinks Choice

                                                                                                                                                                  • Most people think of healthiness of drinks most of the time
                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 37: To what extent people try to drink healthy soft drinks, September 2018
                                                                                                                                                                  • Low intake doesn’t lessen scrutiny
                                                                                                                                                                  • Important Factors when Choosing a Healthy Soft Drink

                                                                                                                                                                    • Sugar leads among health considerations
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 38: Important factors when choosing a healthy soft drink, September 2018
                                                                                                                                                                    • Calories carry little weight in healthiness
                                                                                                                                                                      • Tangible calorie counts appeal over ‘low’ claims
                                                                                                                                                                        • Naturalness has limited appeal in health sphere
                                                                                                                                                                        • Awareness of News and Changes in the Market

                                                                                                                                                                          • Most people noticed ‘sugar tax’ headlines, fewer spotted changes to familiar drinks
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 39: Awareness of news and changes in the market, September 2018
                                                                                                                                                                          • Awareness of news heightens scrutiny of drinks…
                                                                                                                                                                            • …but looks to make little difference to habits
                                                                                                                                                                            • Behaviours and Attitudes Related to Soft Drinks

                                                                                                                                                                              • Nearly everyone thinks their soft drinks intake is low
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 40: Attitudes and behaviours related to soft drinks, September 2018
                                                                                                                                                                              • Demand for standard variants endures
                                                                                                                                                                                • Opportunities for less sweet flavours tempered by concerns over hidden sugar
                                                                                                                                                                                • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Consumer research methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Appendix – Market Drivers

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Soft Drinks Industry Levy – conditions of liability
                                                                                                                                                                                          • EFSA thresholds for various nutrition claims