LONDON: Sales of soft drinks continued to rise in the UK last year, despite the fact many consumers were reining in their expenditure during the downturn.

According to the 2010 Britvic Soft Drinks Report, which was based on data from Nielsen, the research firm, volume sales grew by 2% in 2009, with value sales also increasing by 1% in this period.

Overall, the industry was worth £8.5 billion ($12.9bn; €9.6bn) across all channels last year, with take-home revenues delivering some £6.2bn of this figure in all.

"It is clear ... that soft drinks tap into consumers' evolving shopping behaviour, by offering choice and affordable options," Murray Harris, Britvic's sales director, argued.

"The wide-range of sub-categories means there is something for even the tightest of budgets," he added.

More specifically, large numbers of customers were argued to have made "unexpected switches" and traded down from premium offerings like pure fruit juices and smoothies to cola and squashes.

A heightened willingness to try new stores and products was also said to be a key characteristic of the market, a trend that encouraged manufacturers to run more promotions.

Coca-Cola's take-home totals climbed by 4% on an annual basis to £1.02bn, almost tripling the revenues of Lucozade, which was in second place on this measure on £339m, and experienced a slide of 3%.

Robinsons was in third on £307m, with PepsiCo's trademark cola in fourth on £271m, with these brands posting improvements of 2% and 4% respectively when compared with 2008.

Tropicana, the orange juice range also owned by PepsiCo, completed the top five, but found conditions considerably more challenging, as returns slipped by 6% to £270m.

Red Bull, the energy drink, Ribena, the blackcurrant squash, Schweppes, the tonic water, Actimel, the dairy offering, and Volvic, the bottled water, made up the top ten brands on this metric.

Looking more broadly, Pepsi Max saw its value sales leap by 9% year-on-year, with Tango and Vimto, the carbonated beverages, also expanding by 18% and 27% in turn.

By category, cola sales jumped by 4% across the on-trade and off-trade, taking a 41% market share in the former of these sectors and 22% of the latter.

Energy drinks recorded the most substantial increase in the take-home segment, up by 7%, while smoothies witnessed a contraction of 27%, and pure juice were down by 4%.

"Although soft drinks form a part of our everyday lives and the industry can by buoyed by this return to form, consumer spending habits have undoubtedly changed during the course of the downturn," said Harris.

"Manufacturers and retailers have had to aggressively market soft drinks' value for money, and the fact that the market has enjoyed solid growth in the last year can be attributed to this."

Data sourced from Marketing Magazine, FoodBev, Campaign; additional content by Warc staff