Britvic, the soft drinks company, took drastic steps to address a decline in sales and penetration at Robinsons, its leading dilutes brand.

The category had been in decline for a decade, penetration had fallen by around 13 points while retail sales value had dropped by about £20m, CMO Matt Barwell told the recent Festival of Marketing conference.

It’s hard to turn around that sort of “supertanker brand”, he said. “Retailers see the category declining, they reduce it in space and the category reduces further and you get squeezed and then other people pile into the category and the competition gets harder and everyone fights on price.”

The price battle also meant there was no innovation or premiumisation that might help grow the category; Robinsons’ solution was to redefine where it was competing. (For more details, read WARC’s report: Why Monday nights are Fruit Cordial nights for Robinsons.)

“The squash category is worth about £500m but the category of healthy hydration as we defined it – things that were water or the opportunities to flavour water – that was worth about £3.5bn,” said Barwell.

This also meant redefining where the brand operated in consumers’ lives and how it could develop a broader appeal and bring back those older consumers.

In order to create the opportunity it needed, Robinsons took the radical step of delisting £20m worth of flavours to free up the shelf space that would allow it to introduce its new ‘good, better, best’ strategy with premium tiers.

It was a bold step, but a necessary one, if the brand were to reverse its long-term decline. And, he pointed out, “we had another proof point for us”.

That was the removal of sugar from the brand in 2015, a step which lost it sales value in the short-term before recovering on the back of the health and wellbeing trend. “It was embedded in the purpose of our organisation and the brand,” he said.

Two new sub-brands aimed at adults were launched with an idea that would endure – the “disarming wisdom” of child goodness experts was an approach “that would allow us to have multiple executions across multiple different media channels and disciplines”.

And this strategy has had the desired impact, he reported, growing both the category and brand penetration.

Sourced from WARC