tonic water trends

Tonic water's refreshed approach in 2020

08 April, 2021


The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated trends such as ecommerce and direct-to-consumer sales. “Even businesses that performed exceptionally well, this whole process has caused them to evaluate the way that they work,” says Christian Sarginson, brand controller for Franklin & Sons at Global Brands.

“It’s just accelerated things really, a lot of the stuff that might have been changed was destined to go there anyway eventually.” Global Brands launched Good Time In, its own direct-to-consumer platform, during the lockdowns.

“That became a nice outlet for us to be able to get brand in hand and to give people that at-home experience which has been so important,” says Sarginson. “Ecommerce we see as a good adaptation. It’s been interesting to watch how that’s progressed. Alcohol and mixers under-index on ecommerce quite a lot… because it’s such an impulsive category."

Donachie at Fentimans adds: “While online and ecommerce-based sales of soft drinks had been growing for years, there was a huge explosion of growth in this channel in 2020 as consumers switched to online shopping platforms.”

“In the last year, retail shopping habits changed more than in the 10 years before. Any brand would be da¡ to not capitalise,” says Ronald at Fever-Tree, which invested in online retail platforms and increased its presence on Amazon. “We’ve all seen these changes coming, but I think it’s accelerated more. We’ll continue having a focus online and a focus on digital, because I think that we’ve all jumped into that bath in 2020 and it will continue as we go ahead.”

As other categories have seen, the online marketplace also benefits the small and the unusual. Rather than spending half an hour reading labels in a supermarket aisle, consumers can make researched choices from the comfort of their sofa.

“It’s certainly been good for small brands because people haven’t defaulted to the mainstream premium choices available in multiple grocers,” says Sarginson. “They’ve taken a bit more time to search through the thousands of products online and have been a bit more adventurous.”

While digitalisation benefited many brands, lockdowns ravaged the on-trade, with many bars unable to survive. The result will see a transformation of cities and towns around the globe, and we will emerge into a different metropolitan landscape. For tonic brands whose primary focus is on-premise, this offers a new set of challenges.

“There will be a big movement in the market, let’s say 20-30% of your [on-trade] partners are gone, there will be new partners that you have to build new relationships with, gastronomy partners and bars will need money,” says Bachert.

To support its existing partners, Thomas Henry launched Helping Hands last year, a program which gave on-the-ground help to struggling bars as they sought to get back on their feet.

“A lot of our on-trade sales force were once bartenders or on-premise owners, so when we were allowed to last year, we went to our on-premise partners and offered to help run the bar for them for three or four days, we brought [customers] in and managed their social media channels. It was very successful, and we are going to do this again this year,” says Bachert. “The guys in the on-premise liked it a lot, o¡en it’s better to be on someone’s side than to give them €200.”

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