Why Britvic is ‘running at the fire’ during the cost of living crisis

Britvic wants to tackle today’s economic challenges head-on, says commercial growth director Bruce Dallas, using innovation to explore new categories and markets.

The London Essence Co. Source: Britvic

Britvic plans to prioritise responsiveness and adaptability in the coming months in a bid to face the cost of living crisis head on, says marketing director and commercial growth director Bruce Dallas.

“Running at the fire is important, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last couple of years is there’s a new fire every other day. The businesses that are running to these fires and working hard to adapt accordingly are the ones that are winning out there,” he states.

During difficult economic times for consumers, Britvic wants to ensure its brands, which include Robinsons, Tango and Fruit Shoot, are positioned in an affordable and accessible manner for consumers.

“Making sure you have the right pack for the right occasion or use case is going to be important. There are going to be times when you’ll want to have your big bulk packs, because that’s what consumers need,” he says.

“Also making sure those are there for the right shopping occasions is important, so when people are on the go and wanting to pop into a local store for a bit of refreshment, ensuring the right packs are on those shelves.”

We’re an FMCG business and brands is what we do. We live and die by having brands that have great value with consumers.

Bruce Dallas, Britvic

As well as thinking about price-pack architecture and availability, the business is also looking to communicate with customers and stay relevant to their needs through the cost of living crisis.

“You have to make sure that consumers are seeing value in your products, so building that emotional affinity in your brands is important,” Dallas says.

He points to activity from Robinsons, such as sponsorship of cricket tournament The Hundred and summer activation The Big Fruit Hunt. Both these pieces of activity are about being more relevant to families throughout their lives.

The brand did, however, end its “quintessentially British” partnership with tennis tournament Wimbledon after 86 years in June, with Robinsons stating its intention to broaden its summertime reach.

“Continuing to communicate the benefits of the brand and being available at a decent price point is the sweetspot,” Dallas adds.

While the business is taking proactive steps to convince consumers that its products are worth spending their tighter discretionary spend on, Dallas explains Britvic’s brands are likely to be relatively sheltered from the economic storms ahead.

“The categories that we operate in are fairly resilient in terms of economic downturns,” he claims, although qualifies that by noting the portfolio nature of the business means some brands will be more affected than others.

Soft drinks, the category many of Britvic’s brands fall under, are an “affordable treat”, meaning they’re less likely to be impacted than most high-cost categories, says Dallas.

Marketing and growth go hand-in-hand

In April, he took on the role of commercial growth director in addition to his position as marketing director at Britvic. Dallas will remain as commercial growth director while the business backfills his marketing role.

“In a way that demonstrates how symbiotic the functions are and how hand-in-hand they go. We’re an FMCG business and brands is what we do. We live and die by having brands that have great value with consumers,” he says.

Marketing helps to build great brands and tell stories around them, says Dallas, who argues it’s no good building fantastic brands if you’re not making the most of the channels through which you sell them.

This work of optimising Britvic’s channels includes working with retail partners and building into new strategic areas like digital commerce with consumers.

Earlier this year Britvic launched a digital studio, ‘Infused’ aimed at supporting the business’s wider ambitions of improving customer centricity and accelerating digital.

Dallas notes that it’s still early days for the initiative and the business has much to learn from it, but that the studio is already helping Britvic to reach its goal of creating “a seamless consumer experience” across every touchpoint.

Britvic launches digital studio to boost marketing effectiveness

“It has really helped us understand the consumer better and allowed us to show up in more compelling ways with more relevant messaging, storytelling and products,” he claims.

The in-house digital studio has helped the agility of Britvic’s business in understanding what consumers want, something Dallas predicts will be even more important looking into the future.

“The environment is just changing so quickly around us, our ability to react quickly with the right insight is going to become even more important,” he notes.

Creating categories through innovation

Britvic is also preparing for the future through innovation. Dallas divides up the kind of innovation the business does into several categories.

The first of which is under existing core brands and can be innovating in areas like flavour. He gives the example of Tango Berry Peachy, a limited-edition flavour, which he says there has been a “fantastic” reaction to.

He notes that when core brands are solid, it gives the business “a lot of latitude to play round the edges”.

Britvic is also moving into new spaces. He gives the example of the company’s entry into the new space of premium mixers with London Essence, as well as its entry into non-dairy milks with the 2021 acquisition of Plenish Drinks.

In some of these new categories, the business can follow what Dallas calls “established growth codes”.

“In the premium mixers category, a competitor of ours has created that category and done a fantastic job to be fair to them. We now looked and said: ‘There needs to be competition in that category and we think we can do a good job” and we’ve got to understand the growth code of that category,” he says.

However, there are some innovation categories that are “completely new”, not just for the company, but also for the market, in particular, the infused water category. Britvic is bidding for a share of the flavoured sparkling water category with its Aqua Libra brand.

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He notes alcohol businesses have also been trying to get a share of that market through the introduction of hard seltzers. The flavoured sparking water category (whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic) is huge in the US, Dallas explains, but less so in the UK.

“We’ve all been trying to figure out what the growth code there is,” he says. “We’ve gone through a number of iterations with the packaging, the design, the liquid development to figure out what’s going to unlock that consumer need behind the scenes that hasn’t been fully realised yet.”

Agility and the ability to avoid “becoming frustrated with what doesn’t work” is essential when it comes to opening up a market through innovation, he adds.

Another way Britvic has been preparing itself for the future is through ensuring its products are healthier. Dallas insists the company has been ahead of the curve in this regard, with a commitment to healthier drinks that dates back long before he joined the company.

“Many years ago, the business got onto the train of only advertising sugar free variants….and made sure that our portfolio was set up for the future,” he says. “With the HFSS legislation that comes in shortly, over 90% of our portfolio is under the threshold, which puts us in a fantastic place from a commercial benefit perspective, but it is also the right thing to do.”

This approach of being ahead of the curve is something Britvic takes forward into other areas such as its sustainability initiatives, he adds.

Dallas takes a “glass-half full” approach to the future and is optimistic about what marketers and their brands can do even in difficult economic times.

“Yes, it’s tough, but our job as marketers is to make sure that we’re seeing through all the depressing headlines and building our brands and businesses,” he states.