Members’ News

May 2024

Paula Sherlock is new chair of FEA's Light Equipment and Tableware Product Group #

Decision to appoint highly experienced managing director was 'elementary...'

Paula Sherlock is the new chair of FEA's influential Light Equipment and Tableware (LET) Product Group. Her appointment comes as Steve Goodliff steps down from the role after 18 years. "It's a real honour to be asked to follow in Steve's footsteps, he's been a brilliant leader for the LET sector," Paula says.

Paula plans to build on the success of the LET Group, which FEA regards as one of its strongest categories. In particular, she wants equal focus on both light equipment and tableware. "The two are really quite different – and, as a group, it’s important that we celebrate the differences in the category, as well as highlighting where we can be stronger as a group. This year’s LET Forum will see the introduction of the 'plug and play' zone – where delegates can see light equipment in action and where suppliers can showcase features and benefits in real time, alongside the very best tableware the industry has to offer.”

 "FEA membership has been a huge benefit for Signature FSE, and I’m passionate about sharing that success with prospective and existing members alike" says Paula. "Events like the LET Forum have helped us promote the company and raise the profile of our brands. Membership also gives us access to very informative business support and market data, all of which helps our business. The more that we can highlight these benefits to the wider industry, the more members we can encourage to join the group and share the successes that increased membership and exposure can bring. I aim to help FEA increase the membership of the LET Product Group. The bigger we are, the stronger we are and the better able to meet our challenges."

Paula was instrumental in setting up the FEA Light Equipment and Tableware pavilion at this year’s HRC show. Future plans include a regular LET newsletter and an annual award for best LET project, all designed to boost knowledge, insight, and performance across the industry.

"The two big challenges facing the LET sector now are supply chain concerns, and the need to develop products that can overcome the skills and staff shortage issues that our customers face," she says.

"The issue of maintaining a reliable supply network has definitely been put in the spotlight by recent world events. Our end users are removed from this to a degree and don't always see the connection between disruption in the Red Sea and a shortage of their favourite tableware or cookware and this can be a challenge. On the flip side, manufacturers are continually developing products that can help less skilled staff do their job, and increase productivity - so fewer staff can do more.

"That's why making the most of the potential of events like the LET Forum and HRC are so important, as they help us educate the market, so customers can better understand these issues and see the solutions we can offer."

Paula is forthright on the importance of sustainability - provided it's backed by honesty. "Reducing carbon footprint, energy efficiency, minimising food waste - these are absolute priorities that we have to focus on and that our customers increasingly want to know about. However, we need to do this in as accessible a manner as possible – with all the daily challenges of running a busy kitchen, operators don’t always have time to focus on these issues. We can help lift the burden by making it simpler, and providing clear facts and figures that help meet sustainability objectives." 
Paula has spent a highly successful career in a variety of areas within the foodservice equipment industry, in design, technology, tableware and heavy and light equipment, dealing with consultants, dealers and manufacturers. Her very first job was at consultants GWP Associates with Ken Winch. During the 1980s she worked at FSD helping designers to integrate CAD systems and later with Bonnet, where she oversaw marketing for their export department. In 2003 Signature FSE was founded and, as managing director, she has built it into a highly successful business. Signature joined FEA in 2005 since when Paula has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Association's LET group.

"Asking Paula to take over as chair of the Light Equipment and Tableware Product Group was a very simple decision," says Paul Anderson, chair of FEA. "You might say it was elementary... She has an incredible amount of expertise and her experience in different aspects of the foodservice equipment industry gives her great insight, a holistic approach with the ability to see things from different points of view. Plus, her passion for the LET sector is unrivalled."

The Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) is the independent, authoritative voice of the foodservice equipment industry, representing nearly 200 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment - from utensils to full kitchen schemes. For more information on FEA visit

UKHospitality will be holding its annual Summer Conference on 13 June at Hilton London Bankside #

Bringing together more than 300 business leaders from across the sector, alongside policy influencers and wider stakeholders. The conference provides an exclusive platform for inspiration, innovation and debate, through speaker presentations, panel sessions, exhibition stands and networking opportunities.
The theme of this year’s conference is Serving Britain: how hospitality creates places where people want to live, work and invest.
Hospitality is a powerhouse that contributes £140 billion in growth, £54 billion in tax receipts and 3.5 million jobs. Our sector is unique in creating places that people want to live, work and invest.
Our Summer Conference will celebrate hospitality’s contribution to Britain and showcase why it matters more now than ever before.
Hear from the people and businesses leading the way in the sector, provide cutting edge insight into the political and economic landscape, and experience top-class networking opportunities with leading figures in hospitality.
The conference is a full day event with a jam-packed agenda running from 09.30 am - 5.00pm, followed by an evening networking drinks reception.
Get your tickets here:

Elior UK launches range of catering services for The Whitaker Museum & Art Gallery #

Contract caterer Elior has secured a new 3-year contract providing a variety of café, restaurant, kiosk, event and meeting catering services at The Whitaker Museum & Art Gallery (The Whitaker) in Rossendale.
Elior was appointed for this contract because of its creativity and innovative plans to develop educational food offerings to accompany the museum’s calendar of exhibitions. Elior will serve local produce across The Whitaker’s 65-seat restaurant, outdoor kiosk and variety of event spaces. Partnerships include a collaboration with local North-West favourite ice cream, Fredericks.
Elior will welcome 10 new employees to The Whitaker site including a general manager, head chef and team of kitchen assistants.
Craig Stewart, Divisional Managing Director from Elior said: “This new partnership shows the scope of Elior’s bespoke offerings and how food and drink can be an integral part of The Whitaker Museum & Art Gallery’s offering. We love working with exciting and dynamic sites, and this partnership fits that bill perfectly. I know we will achieve a lot together.”
Gaynor Seville, Creative Director at The Whitaker Museum & Art Gallery, said: “Positive customer experience is a priority for us at The Whitaker, and we welcome the changes that Elior will bring to our bar and kitchen offer. This new chapter in our ongoing development will see our first-class museum and art gallery sit alongside an exciting brand-new menu, events offer, and a team of dedicated and professional staff that will help our customers have the best experience possible. I’m really looking forward to welcoming back familiar faces, and inviting a new wave of customers, to The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery.”

Steve Goodliff wins FEA’s prestigious LET Donald Bird Award #

Light Equipment and Tableware Forum applauds Contacto’s MD 

Steve Goodliff has won the Donald Bird Award, the FEA Light Equipment and Tableware Forum’s highest accolade.  Steve, who is the managing director of Contacto, was chair of FEA’s LET Group for no less than 18 years, only stepping down recently, passing the role onto Paula Sherlock.    

Announcing the award at the LET Forum’s awards dinner at Whittlebury Hall on 14th May, John Cunningham, chief executive of FEA, said, “All the companies in the light equipment and tableware sector have had the benefit of the dedication and hard work that Steve has selflessly put into the LET Group; as a member of the group and then vice chair, taking over the chair role from Donald Bird in 2005.

“Steve’s selfless hard work and thoughtful leadership have been part and parcel of the development of the LET sector, from this Forum right up to initiatives at HRC 2024.  He’s also been a diligent, supportive and active FEA Council member since July 2005.”

Keith Warren, former CE of FEA and last year’s Donald Bird Award winner, said, “Steve’s great status in the industry amongst suppliers, distributors and customers is due to his professionalism, honesty, integrity and his friendly, open and inclusive nature.”

Steve started in the LET industry at Samuel Groves in 1984, leaving to set up Contacto in1992 – from a bedroom in his house. Contacto moved into their first office in the Birmingham jewellery quarter in September 1995, then to a bigger office in 1998, and finally to their office and warehouse in Erdington in 2008. 

John Cunningham said, “This industry, its supplier businesses, the FEA and the LET Group are all in a better position as a result of Steve’s hard work and engagement – thank you and well done, Steve!”

Steve accepted the award from John to a standing ovation from guests at the awards dinner.  He said, “I’m lost for words.  After 18 years it was time for a change – it feels like the end of an era.  I’m so pleased that Paula has agreed to take on the role.  She has so much experience of our sector and has lots of ideas for moving us on.  She’s already doing a great job.”

Steve will continue to play a role on the FEA’s LET Group, supporting Paula and the team with his experience and passion. 

The late Donald Bird was leader of the Catering Utensils Association and led the joining with CESA (now FEA) in the early 2000s. The prestigious Donald Bird Award recognises an individual who has gone the extra mile and had a significant impact on the light equipment and tableware industry. 
The Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) is the independent, authoritative voice of the foodservice equipment industry, representing nearly 200 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment - from utensils to full kitchen schemes.  For more information on FEA visit 

Pavilion Training Academy programme is the first at Xcelerate with Edgbaston #

The inaugural Compass Group UK & Ireland regional community skills and learning centre, Xcelerate with Edgbaston, successfully hosted its first training programme at the newly launched facility at Edgbaston Stadium. The training was in partnership with Pavilion Training and was attended by 24 people, across two weeks. Courses included hands-on training sessions across hospitality skills such as Bar Excellence Training, culinary and barista craftsmanship.

Pavilion Training supports young people from across the region, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, in building confidence, developing skillsets and securing brighter futures. Their hospitality training programme partners with local employers across the West Midlands to deliver sector-based skills, employability support and hands-on work experience for jobseekers looking to secure work in the hospitality sector.

This programme was fully funded by the Black Country Training Group and supported by the Department for Work and Pensions, so employers benefit from free training and recruitment whilst also supporting their local community.

Sports and entertainment arm of Compass, Levy UK + Ireland, has a longstanding partnership with Edgbaston and was instrumental in establishing the pioneering training site which is dedicated to elevating the skills and standards of all aspects of hospitality. It is hoped that some graduates of Xcelerate with Edgbaston training programmes will go on to secure jobs at the stadium itself. 

The one-and-a half-million-pound training facility boasts state-of-the-art infrastructure designed to provide a conducive learning environment. Equipped with 12 innovative cooking stations, a modern lecture theatre, practical training areas, and the latest industry-specific technology, the centre ensures a comprehensive and immersive learning experience.

Xcelerate with Edgbaston is the first of Compass’ regional community skills and learning hubs for training and excellence. The training facilities will be provided in partnership with its clients, with the view to train thousands of people every year.

Jonathan Foot, Head of Apprenticeships and Early Careers, Compass Group UK & Ireland: “At Xcelerate with Edgbaston, we’re proud to support leading hospitality employers across Birmingham, that are opening doors to a wealth of career opportunities in the hospitality sector. The feedback about the facilities was very positive from the Pavilion team and I have no doubt this is the start of our impact in helping people develop their skills and supporting the local community.”

Joe Turner, Managing Director at Pavilion said: “The Pavilion team have been supporting hospitality employers with our fast-track employment programme since last year, however this new partnership with Compass and their fabulous Xcelerate training facility offers learners a perfect platform to hone their skills and open even more doors to exciting employment opportunities across the West Midlands.”

Participant Rachel added: “It was a fun day, only wished it could go on for longer. I really enjoyed doing all the activities, with cocktail making, alt brewing and the barista workshop - I cannot pick a favourite. The hands-on experience and being able to talk to the employers before an interview was a massive help - showing me what they are looking for will help me move forward in getting a job.”

GARDEN GOURMET and German Doner Kebab join forces for the ultimate plant based doner range #

Nestlé Professional’s GARDEN GOURMET has teamed up with German Doner Kebab (GDK) to introduce a delicious new plant based doner range that doesn't compromise on taste or texture.   

The new range uses GARDEN GOURMET Sensational Vegan Pulled Fillet, a meat alternative made from soya protein, available from 29 April at all GDK stores.  

Guests can now enjoy this innovative plant-based doner in the new ‘OV Kebab’, served the same way as the famous GDK ‘OG Kebab’, with the signature doner spice blend with fresh lettuce and juicy tomatoes, onion and red cabbage. This is served in a handmade toasted sesame waffle bread with GDK’s three signature sauces.  

The plant based doner can also incorporated into any Mains or Doner Boxes. With this addition, customers now can choose from eight vegetarian items, setting a new standard in variety and choice within our competitive landscape.  

Kate Edley, Lead Brand & Category for Savoury Food & Plant-Based at Nestlé Professional UK&I said:  

“Chicken is the most common ingredient in kebabs*, so teaming up with GDK presents an ideal opportunity to broaden the options and to cater to diner’s preferences and needs. Our GARDEN GOURMET Sensational™ Vegan Pulled Fillet offers is both rich in protein and a source of fibre, offering a versatile choice for vegetarian and vegans.   

“It has that juicy bite and taste, almost like chicken thighs. Plus, it's got a soft, fibrous texture that soaks up all those big flavours, making it the perfect addition to the GDK Kebab range.” 

Thorsk Westphal, Global CMO at GDK said:   

"Partnering with Nestlé Professional’s GARDEN GOURMET is a very exciting next step for us here at GDK.  We are and always have been dedicated to redefining the kebab experience, prioritising quality and fresh ingredients to deliver a premium experience.   

"This collaboration significantly expands availability of vegetarian options by offering a plant-based version of all our fan favourites, aligning with our commitment to offering diverse, flavourful choices for all. Whether customers are wanting to reduce their meat intake for the month, have recently switched across to a plant-based diet or are just intrigued to try new things – we want them to know they can still have an elevated meal that will set taste buds alight. Don’t just take our word for it!”   

Forget what you think you know. You’ve never had a kebab like this before. Made fresh to order, with premium ingredients and GDK’s signature sauces. Kebabs Done Right. 

Amazingly versatile ... Great in salads, sandwiches, wraps, pastas and stir fries and lots more. For more information on our GARDEN GOURMET Sensational™ Vegan Pulled Fillet click here.  

GARDEN GOURMET Sensational™ Vegan Pulled Fillet is also available from Bidfood, product code 16751. Explore the entire range from the Bidfood website.   

Mouthwatering new vegan beef burger from Quornpro #

Protein pioneer QuornPro is adding a thick-cut juicy showstopper to menus this year.
Made from mycoprotein, the delicious new QuornPro Vegan Beef Burger is primed to take centre stage. Grill it, griddle it, slice it, or dice it. Stack it high in epic burgers or toss it in a stir fry with a flourish of toppings, sauces or sides. Whatever you do with it, prepare to make mouths water.
Paul Jennings, Head of Culinary at QuornPro says: “Burgers remain a top menu choice. We developed QuornPro’s new Vegan Beef Burger to help operators meet demand for an incredible tasting, great quality protein that ticks all the boxes. With QuornPro there’s no compromise on taste, nutrition and sustainability.”
QuornPro is driven by the passion of its culinary team to become the protein of choice on menus. Through innovation and dedication, QuornPro works with its partners to inspire bold creative dishes on menus.
Interested in finding out more? Get in touch!

FEA recognises distributors’ dedication to excellence at this year’s LET Forum awards #

Winners exemplify the importance of pursuing innovation and great customer service

Jeff Wood from United UK was revealed as 2024’s Sales Professional of the Year at the FEA’s Light Equipment and Tableware Forum awards ceremony. Meanwhile, Alliance celebrated its seventh consecutive win of the Distributor Cup award.

Announcing the winners at this year’s LET Forum, the new chair of FEA’s LET Product Group, Paula Sherlock, praised the winners for their extraordinary work.

“The LET awards aim to celebrate the achievements of the light equipment industry and those working in it,” she says. “This year we had some amazing nominations which demonstrated their dedication to excellence and the winners richly deserve the recognition.”

Sales Professional of the Year recognises the work of individuals who have contributed the most to the sale of utensils and smallware over the last year, delivering outstanding customer service and success in winning contracts or developing new sales. Alongside Jeff, Rebecca Varley from Brakes Catering Equipment was also shortlisted.

“There were some amazing nominees this year, and it was tough to pick a winner,” says Paula. “But the respect and appreciation for Jeff’s commitment to his work and his customers was clear from the entry.”

Jeff was described in the nomination forms as hard working and dedicated, giving exceptional service and performance and always responsive and ready to assist customers. He took home a glass trophy and £500 in cash as well as a free place on FEA’s internationally renowned Certified Food Service Professional (CFSP) course.

The Distributor Cup is given to the company that has gone above and beyond to support the promotion and sales of light equipment and tableware. With a shortlist consisting of Alliance, Lockhart Catering Equipment and Jacksons it was a tightly fought contest, with Alliance taking the award for the seventh year in a row. The award was accepted by Sarah Overton, general manager at Alliance.

“Once again Alliance have shown amazing commitment to delivering innovative new products as well as supporting the utensil industry and its customers,” says Paula. “They fully deserve this accolade, for the seventh time!”

The Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) is the independent, authoritative voice of the foodservice equipment industry, representing nearly 200 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment - from utensils to full kitchen schemes.  For more information on FEA visit 

Bidfood reveals its first group of listed suppliers on the path to acceleration through its SME scheme, Open Doors #

After the successful launch of its SME scheme last October, Bidfood, one of the UK’s leading foodservice providers, is proud to announce the initial group of suppliers selected through the Open Doors Programme.

Aimed at small food and beverage suppliers, the Open Doors Programme identifies the most innovative businesses trying to establish themselves within the industry and raises awareness of their products so they can make their mark in wholesale. 

Despite the recent deceleration in inflation, the share of small businesses aspiring to grow this year has significantly decreased during the last six months. Small businesses within the food sector have shown the biggest drop in confidence that their business will grow, at more than 70%.

As a result, Bidfood’s Open Doors Programme has continued on its mission to unlock the potential of emerging suppliers, supporting their development journey, while also providing its customers with first-hand access to some of the most interesting brands out there. 

Following a three-step development journey to nurture, champion and finally accelerate, the initiative has resulted in seven brands being officially listed with Bidfood, along with a selection of their products:

Bio&Me – A B-certified brand, Bio&Me has a range of handy on-the-go porridges created to support gut health. Bio&Me is also part of the ‘Buy Women Built’ community, which shines a light on brands built by women.
Boundless ­– Using activated ingredients, Boundless snacks support gut health and are free from the top 14 allergens. They're also members of the ‘Buy Women Built’ community.
Flawsome! – Another B-certified brand, Flawsome! produces a variety of juices, sparkling fruit waters and health shots made from wonky and surplus fruits.
Ninju – A true kitchen table start-up, Ninju is a range of fruit and vegetable-based children’s drinks packaged in 100% recyclable cartons.
OGGS ­– Offering a vegan alternative to eggs, OGGS is the third B-certified brand out of the newly listed suppliers and will soon be a part of the ‘Buy Women Built’ community. 
TeaJoy – Designed to serve the growing demand for bubble tea in the UK, TeaJoy’s products are a quick and easy solution to making bubble tea using authentic Jasmine leaves from Taiwan. 
TRIBE – High protein vegan flapjacks with a strong stance against modern slavery.

Commenting on the newly listed suppliers, Sales and Marketing Director at Bidfood UK, Tim Adams said: “We have made fantastic progress in the past six months, from having our first SME supplier conference in October, to hosting dozens of guidance sessions to prospective suppliers. Now, we have seven amazing and inspiring brands listed with us that can work across a variety of sectors.

“Working with Andrew Allen has allowed us to tailor the Open Doors Programme to suit small food and beverage businesses, who are still facing some tough market challenges, and making their presence known in wholesale.

“It coincides perfectly with Bidfood’s vision to be a positive force for change and we will continue to be the voice for underrepresented founder groups with incredible brand stories, as well as suppliers who offer excellence in carbon reduction and social value. We can’t wait for the next six months and what this will bring for more small businesses.”

Cathy Mosely, founder of Boundless added: “Open Doors has done exactly what its name promises; opening doors for small brands like Boundless to thrive under expert guidance, in order to reach levels of distribution otherwise impossible for a start-up.
“Through mentorship and unlocking marketing opportunities normally reserved for big corporations, our projected growth with Bidfood is exponential and we’re extremely excited for the next 12 months."

To learn more about the Open Doors Programme and to sign up for the ODP newsletter, visit here:

Aramark UK Open Europe’s First Automated Theme Park Store at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort #

Aramark UK has unveiled DUPLO Coffee Co, its frictionless coffee and convenience store located within the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort. The launch of this innovative store follows the opening of the 2024 season, marking the first of its kind in a European theme park. Situated in the DUPLO Valley region of the park, DUPLO Coffee Co provides guests with a truly frictionless shopping experience, transforming the way they can enjoy their visit.

By partnering with the forward-thinking, AI-powered, cashierless platform, Zippin, Aramark UK has invested in sophisticated retail technology to enhance the guest experience, effectively eliminating wait times often associated with traditional purchasing methods. At DUPLO Coffee Co, guests can simply select their choice of drinks and snacks and be automatically billed for their purchases as they exit the store in under two minutes. At this outlet, they won’t have to worry about queuing or self-service scanning, thus freeing up valuable time to fully immerse themselves in the park’s attractions. Aramark hospitality staff will be on-site, dedicated to supporting guests and hosting their experience.

DUPLO Coffee Co offers a wide array of items loved by park guests, including freshly made Costa coffee integrated into the wider payment experience, a variety of cold drinks, cakes, cookies, sweets, and a selection of healthy snacking products.

Helen Milligan-Smith, CEO of Aramark UK commented: "At Aramark UK, we are committed to elevating the customer experience. Partnering with Zippin to launch DUPLO Coffee Co represents an exciting milestone in entertainment hospitality. The adoption of this autonomous approach helps meet the needs of guests who want to make the most of their visit to the theme park. Providing flexible food & drink options with ease and efficiency means guests can do just that - focus on making memories with their loved ones across LEGOLAND Windsor Resort. We look forward to seeing how visitors respond to this new format."

Morgan Edwards, Hotel and Commercial Director, LEGOLAND Windsor adds: "We are thrilled to partner with Aramark UK and Zippin to introduce DUPLO Coffee Co at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort. The cutting-edge concept aligns perfectly with our commitment to providing an exceptional guest experience."

FEA warns of scammers ripping off foodservice equipment companies #

Major company loses £30k of equipment to sophisticated scam

FEA is warning that scammers are targeting foodservice equipment suppliers with sophisticated schemes that could cost the industry tens or even hundreds of thousands.  The warning comes after one major equipment supplier and prominent FEA member lost nearly £30,000 worth of equipment to a scam. 

The company had received what appeared to be a legitimate enquiry from a known client.  Follow up emails all looked the part, with correct logos and contacts, and the ‘customer’ supplied a purchase order, again with everything looking legitimate. 

The ‘customer’ sent a van to pick up the equipment, with a driver who had ID and a copy of the purchase order.  He took the equipment – and that was the last the company heard of it.  The whole thing had been a scam. 

The company has reported the theft to the police, who are working the case but don’t hold out much hope of recovery.  Meanwhile the victim’s insurance company is being evasive – saying that they had given the equipment to the scammers.

“Hopefully this is a one-off,” says John Cunningham, chief executive of FEA.  “However, it’s clear that these scammers were very sophisticated in their approach and their research.  It underlines how equipment suppliers need to be ever vigilant and, perhaps, need to audit their processes when it comes to checking orders are legitimate.”   

The Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) is the independent, authoritative voice of the foodservice equipment industry, representing nearly 200 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment - from utensils to full kitchen schemes.  For more information on FEA visit 

Putting the fizz back into foodservice, soft drink sales hit £3.02BN in 2023 #

Despite the cost-of-living crisis continuing to bite, Britvic reports that the eating out market turned over £97.3bn in 2023 - the first time annual sales have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, and an increase of 6% on 2022.

Britvic’s Soft Drinks Review 2024 highlights that fast food is benefitting from consumers continuing to trade down and operators expanding their estates, whereas casual dining and pubs are being squeezed more than other sectors.

The latest report reveals opportunities for growth for foodservice outlets through soft drinks, which are punching above their weight in foodservice – with sales growing by 4.0% to hit £3.02bn in 2023 and volumes growing by 0.8%. As the foodservice market bounces back, there are visible changes in both consumers’ reasons for visiting outlets and the type of places they’re visiting.  According to Britvic’s Soft Drinks Review 2024, these shifts in consumer behaviour, combined with the changing commercial climate, present significant opportunities for the sector.  Britvic says that foodservice operators can unlock new growth and stand out from the crowd by harnessing the power of soft drinks, a category which has once again demonstrated its resilience and the crucial roles it has to play in driving footfall and sales.
More people are on the move again, fewer people are going out specifically for a treat and more people are choosing venues based on proximity and menu choice.  These are just some of the latest consumer trends that are driving the renaissance of the foodservice sector.  Britvic’s report indicates that share of eating out that took place in city centre or high street locations grew by 1% pts in 2023, reflecting growth in demand from people looking for quick meals, snacks and drinks while they’re out and about.  Fast food restaurants are naturally reaping the rewards from consumers continuing to trade down, whereas casual dining and pubs are feeling the pinch more than other sectors.
Despite these challenges, Britvic maintains that foodservice operators can take advantage of these new consumer trends which are fuelling demand for more sophisticated soft drinks.  Overall sales of food and drink through foodservice grew by 6% year-on-year in 2023, but volumes fell by 3.8%.  Soft drinks, on the other hand, continue to reign supreme within foodservice, with sales growing by 4.0% to hit £3.02bn last year and volumes growing by 0.8%.  Britvic’s Soft Drinks Review 2024 indicates that part of the reason for the category’s success is down to consumers not being prepared to compromise on quality, despite more than three quarters (76.3%) of people identifying as being value-led.  In fact 73% are happy to splash out more for high quality drinks, illustrating the sheer scale of opportunity for foodservice operators to trade choices up to more premium drinks.
“Soft drinks are playing a more central role in many operators’ propositions,” explains Dino Labbate, GB commercial director for hospitality at Britvic.  “Just look at Itsu with its range of co-branded LA Brewery kombuchas.  Not to mention Indian street food operator, Mowgli, which has developed its own range of signature mocktails, lassis and low and no offerings. We’re urging more foodservice operators to follow suit and adapt their approach to selling soft drinks to stay ahead of the curve.”
Britvic’s report highlights several positive trends that will be music to the ears of foodservice operators.  Firstly, daytime dining is on the rise, this presents foodservice operators with opportunities to wow guests with elevated versions of everyday drinks, from coffees to milkshakes and smoothies.  Second of all, soft drinks are playing an increasingly important role in lunch and snacking occasions outside the home, with nearly half (49%) of food-to-go lunch occasions featuring soft drinks in 2023, and 39% of food-to-go snacking occasions including soft drinks last year.
Labbate continues “That’s why we’ve launched the Mix with Britvic online platform – to help foodservice operators stay ahead of trends and give them the skills to make everyday drinks more memorable every single time.  This could involve pepping up coffees with added kicks of flavours or adding more pizzaz to milkshakes, smoothies, lassis, or house sodas.  The rewards for operators are higher margins and elevated experiences for their guests.
“Our Soft Drinks Review 2024 emphasises the importance of focusing on innovative drinks menus to target spend growth.  Exciting flavour innovations are proving especially important to win over Gen-Zers, who are more likely to buy new flavours.  At Britvic, earlier this year we launched Tango Editions Mango to build on the success of 2022 limited editions Tango Editions Berry Peachy and 2023’s Tango Editions Paradise Punch, which have generated sales with £16.8m between them across the total market.  We’re also looking forward to seeing Pepsi Electric – a zesty, refreshing, citrusy, electric blue cola – rolling out into independent fast-food outlets this month.”

He adds “Our report also shines a light on the continued importance on value. With more than a third (38.1%) of people citing good value for money as a motivator for their choice of soft drinks (a rise of 2.1% pts) and 13.8% citing special offers or discounts as a motivator (a rise of 1.2% pts), we’re seeing operators upping the ante on meal deals and sales events.  In order to stand out from the crowd, operators will also need to step up their efforts by investing in building digital loyalty and improving customer experience.”
At a time when the soft drinks category continues to prove itself as highly versatile and relevant to changing consumer needs, the value it can bring to the sector shouldn’t be underestimated.
Britvic’s Top Tips for foodservice operators

Make sure your menus stand out from the crowd:

Teisseire, Robinsons Cordials and the London Essence Company Range of Mixers and Crafted Sodas are perfectly positioned to help operators add value to their drinks ranges.

Health, indulgence and specialisation are all tools that foodservice operators are using to stand out from the crowd.  Go one step further than juices and smoothies and think health shots and indulgent hand-spun shakes.

Opt for food and soft drink pairings that go beyond the classic burger and Pepsi MAX combo.  For example, London Essence Company Spiced Ginger Beer pairs perfectly with spicier Asian dishes, Tango Editions Mango Sugar Free complements and cuts through the richness of dishes such as fried chicken.

Workplace operators can tap into the “water plus” opportunity, (flavoured, infused and functional water products) which is worth £16.6m and growing at 19.5% year-on-year.  Britvic is helping workplace caterers tap into this opportunity with the Aqua Libra Flavour Tap.  The system serves pure filtered water, either plain or infused with a choice of flavours (all containing zero calories, sugar or preservatives), at the touch of a button.

Invest in delivery apps – by the end of this year, orders made on delivery apps will have grown share of leading foodservice brands’ turnover by an expected 7% pts compared to 2019.  But only 26.7% of orders through delivery aggregators include a soft drink, suggesting operators are missing a trick to maximise order value.

Download the Britvic Foodservice Soft Drinks Review 2024