How Lucozade Ribena Suntory is future-proofing its business as the sugar debate crystallises

How Lucozade Ribena Suntory is future-proofing its business as the sugar debate crystallises.

In two years’ time the UK government could introduce new regulations around sugar levels that would force soft drinks companies to reduce the amount of the sweet stuff in their drinks or face paying the sugar tax. At Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS) the impending levy has sparked a flurry of product innovations as it seeks to ensure consumers keep buying its brands.

Creating lower sugar variants has been the tack of the majority of soft drinks producers that have long been battling changing attitudes to health. According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), 28 per cent of sports and energy drinks launched in the UK so far this year have carried a low, no or reduced sugar claim, up from just 10 per cent in 2015.

In March, LRS launched a calorie-free version of its flagship energy product named Zero. Backed by a £5m campaign the drink has so far proved a “phenomenal” success having achieved a £10m turn over since launch.

Speaking to The Drum LRS marketing director Jon Evans said that to make its products more desirable in the wake of the sugar furore, the company is looking to both innovation in terms of lighter products as well as reformulating the standard versions of its drinks.

“The biggest success we have had recently is our Zero version of Lucozade Energy. We took quite an interesting approach to it. Firstly the liquid inside scores just as well as the core range and it’s important to make sure the taste delivers on the promise and the second thing is that we took a different approach to the design. We made it look and feel every bit as appealing as the core range because often with light products they look like a poorer version of the regular product.

“With sugar tax coming down the track in just over a year’s time we are reformulating our core range to reduce the amount of sugar but maintain great taste. We are also looking at healthier drinks we can bring to market from scratch.”

LRS’s latest dip in the healthy waters is the launch of Cactus Water, which is being positioned as a healthier version of popular coconut water brands. Targeted at health-conscious consumers, the drink is being seeded in top end health food stores and a limited number of Waitrose and Boots stores.

In a move similar to Coca-Cola, LRS has begun to introduce various pack sizes to take in to account different tastes and needs. Lucozade Energy now comes in 500ml and 380ml pack sizes, as well as a newly introduced 250ml can, to cater for the one third of people LSR discovered prefer a can over a bottle.

For its Ribena brand, LRS has been investing in marketing and sampling for Ribena Light to encourage fans of the brand to buy the no-added sugar version. The drinks company has also launched Ribena Minis, which is aimed at the kids' lunchbox market but it is entirely free from sugar.

“We are not making Minis available in the full sugar version so that is the responsible thing to do,” said Evans. “For the 500ml pack aimed at adults, what we are doing is focusing most of our investment on the light products. Most people assume that the lighter version won't taste as good, so we are trying to challenge that perception and that is working - [Ribena Light has seen growth of 45 per cent].

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