2012: The year in food and drink

Britvic and AG Barr announced plans to merge in an all-share deal to become one of Europe’s biggest soft drinks companies, projected to deliver annual sales of £1.5bn.

britvic ag barr

The deal is still subject to regulatory approval but will be led by AG Barr’s chief executive Roger White. Britvic’s CEO Paul Moody will not be joining the company and it is not yet clear how the management team, including the marketing departments of each business, will be rationalised as a result of the merger.

Industry experts have suggested Rubicon is likely to emerge as the winning brand of the merger, which will now have the marketing and distribution potential to expand from the world food and drinks aisles to become a mainstream beverage.

Britvic will be hoping the merger will put to bed its problems of 2012, where it was forced to recall all its Fruit Shoot and Hydro products following a safety issue with the bottles’ caps. The move was estimated to have cost the company up to £25m.

Olympic sparkle

Coca-Cola, which has sponsored the Olympics since 1928, marked a resoundingly successful year – crediting its London 2012 marketing for boosting the amount of products sold globally.

Coca Cola

This came despite some camps, including the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogges, criticising Coca-Cola and McDonald’s involvement with the event due to growing levels of global obesity.

The soft drinks maker also retained the top spot in InterBrand’s 100 “best” brands.

Next year also looks to be an active one for Coca-Cola, despite the lack of major sporting events, as its energy drink brand Burn is set to enter Formula One through the multi-year sponsorship of the Lotus Team.

McDonald’s opened its biggest ever restaurant on the Stratford Olympic Park as the focal point of its brand presence at this year’s Games. As in previous years the brand faced criticism for its long-running partnership with the Olympic Games, but this year it put even more focus on heathy options in Happy Meals and its Mascotathon initiative that aimed to encourage kids to get active in the run up to the Games.


It also tapped into the crowdsourcing trend with a campaign during the Olympics that featured Team GB fans and used content captured at the Games.

SodaStream steps up to the soft drinks industry

SodaStream, the darling home carbonation system of the 1980s, launched an assault on the soft drinks market last month – which was pulled from air just hours before it was scheduled to break by broadcast clearance body ClearCast.

ClearCast ruled the ad, which claimed consumers could save up to 2,000 plastic bottles each year by using SodaStream, was “denigrating” to the soft drinks industry.

SodaStream quickly retaliated with a new TV spot directing viewers to the original campaign on YouTube and print ads hitting back at the ban and encouraging people to join in the debate on social media.

Alcohol – Premium brands stand out

Pressure from the Government in the form of proposals for a minimum price for alcohol alongside flat beer and wine sales put pressure on marketers to broaden the appeal of their brands further in 2012. Beer brands such as Foster’s and Carling launched premium lower-strength variants to appeal to younger drinkers, while cider makers including Kopparberg and Aspall looked to give the traditional summer drink an all year-round appeal.


Consumer expectations are complex and the risks of trying to introduce heritage brands to new audiences were exemplified when Molson Coors’ axed its female friendly beer Animée after just 12 months. The brewer is now looking to “premiumise” its portfolio after admitting it is too focused on mainstream brands. It is a strategy that has worked well for Pernod Ricard over the last 12 months, with the business hailing its marketing activity for delivering the biggest sales jump in four years. Similarly, spirits brands Zubrowka and Jagermeister also launched premiumistion strategies towards the end of the year to appeal to older drinkers.

Digital marketing continued to play a pivotal role in the brand building efforts of the major drinks companies. AB InBev announced its decision to shift marketing spend from TV to social media in March, while SAB Miller’s top executives visited Silicon Valley to accelerate a companywide adoption of digital in October.

Snacks shake off their bad reputation.

Snacking – once viewed as a vice – has become a lucrative market for brands looking to create new consumption occasions and bring more innovative products to market. This trend was compounded earlier this year when Mondelez, formerly part of Kraft Foods, spun off from its North American grocery business to be solely focused on the global snacks market. Kellogg’s, PepsiCo and Diageo were among several brands to extend their key brands into new snacking categories to take advantage of changing consumer behaviour, while Heinz and Mars both saw gains to be made in launching healthier versions of existing branded products.


Health concerns from the Government and consumers continued to be a key talking point throughout 2012 and marketers from the likes of Tesco and Mars backed innovation and in-store marketing to allay fears that they are not doing enough to help tackle obesity rates across the country.

Consumer appetite for digital formats and new eating experiences gave rise to innovative brand experiences over the last 12 months. Cadbury began collaborating with start-ups to accelerate a digitalfirst mentality across its business, while Nestle crowdsourced a permanent addition to its Kit Kat Chunky range via Facebook.

‘Fast casual dining’

2012 was the year for ‘fast causal dining’. Restaurants that bridge the gap between fine dining and fast food outperformed the industry average achieving sales growth of 2.5 per cent for the year ending in March, as consumers sought out high quality dining experiences and good value.

Yo Sushi

A number of chain restaurants have embarked on major marketing campaigns this year to tap into the trend and grow brand awareness across the country. La Tasca and Yo! Sushi debuted loyalty programmes to retain brand value in the face of growing number of vouchers and deals in the market while Yo! Sushi also launched its first TV activity.

Wagamama launched its first charity partnership and Wahaca launched a branded supermarket range to extend its reach into the home.


See all our 2012 round-ups here



2012: The year in retail

Josie Allchin

2012 was the year multichannel really went mainstream and stopped being ‘nice to have’. Rather than retailers with comprehensive multichannel platforms being trailblazers, those without are now starting to look like laggards.