Businesses of all sizes are under increasing pressure to address environmental and personal health concerns. Britvic’s director of sustainability, Trystan Farnworth, discusses what retailers can do, and why his company favours a bottle return scheme

Company CV 

Company Britvic

Director of sustainability Trystan Farnworth

Profile Trystan Farnworth has been with Britvic for 15 years. He became director of sustainability in March 2019. 

Latest news At the launch of its latest soft drinks report, Farnworth announced Britvic’s support for “well-designed” deposit return schemes for drink containers. 

RN What is Britvic doing to make its products more sustainable?

Trystan Farnworth In the past three years, Britvic has invested £240m in a programme that will completely transform its supply chain, delivering increased sustainability and security. 

As the sustainability agenda becomes more prominent, consumers will expect more recyclable packaging, and that can make some liquids harder to store. 

We need to be in a position where our factory lines are capable of making those things. 

RN How can retailers make their businesses more sustainable?

Trystan Farnworth Ultimately, doing lots of small things will be what makes the difference. Britvic recently did some research that suggested that only 34% of shoppers thought their convenience store did enough in terms of sustainability. 

There is a big opportunity and need for convenience retailers to get behind sustainability; responding to that demand will help to get people through their doors.

Suppliers face many of the same choices as retailers. For example, there’s an opportunity to buy 100% renewable electricity, which typically costs more, but it’s an important step to take.

Water use in any element of food preparation is also something that can be looked at.  

RN What should be included in a deposit return scheme (DRS), and how should it work in the UK?

Trystan Farnworth You see less littering where large bottles are concerned, because consumption tends to be at home, where any packaging usually goes into the recycling bin. 

On-the-go packs are more likely than large bottles to end up as litter. It has been observed that, globally, littering is reduced wherever a well-designed DRS is in place. 

There are two big advantages of a DRS. The first is litter reduction; the second is the creation of a stream of high-quality plastic that will help the industry recycle more packaging material. 

The sort of DRS Britvic favours must be well-designed and, ideally, nationwide and industry-operated. 

RN What impact has the Soft Drinks Industry Levy had on independent retailers stocking Britvic products?

Trystan Farnworth Unsurprisingly, the industry has experienced a fall in full-sugar sales, due in part to manufacturers reformulating, and also to consumer demand. The drop from full- to no-sugar has accelerated as a result.

The industry has seen increasing growth on Pepsi Max, and other below-levy brands such as Tango.

We’re also starting to see our squash range, which is also completely below-levy, do well. 

RN Britvic’s last soft drinks review mentioned the growth in premiumisation. Is this trend continuing? If so, how can retailers take advantage?

Trystan Farnworth It’s continuing and, if anything, I see it accelerating. I imagine it will be a big trend for a while yet.

Historically, you might have said premium just meant expensive, suggesting high value-per-litre purchases. Now, it means a lot of different things to a lot of people. It might mean natural or organic, or even suggest more complex liquids. It could mean full-sugar to some, and no-sugar to others. 

It’s not just about the liquid or the brand; packaging can also signify high-quality products. It’s no accident that many brands come in glass bottles, because historically glass has been seen as a more premium material than plastic.

There has been a change in the perception of some types of packaging, however. Previously, consumers may not have regarded canned goods as high-quality products, but now premium lemonades and craft beers are frequently packaged this way. 

In terms of taking advantage, some stores have mirrored or wood- effect backgrounds to signify that these drinks are special. Drawing attention to them enhances what manufacturers are doing with the liquid and the packaging.