Detlef Groß expected declines.
"It couldn't have turned out any other way in the Corona year 2020," says the managing director of the Non-Alcoholic Drinks Association (WAFG) about the development of his own industry in the German market.
After all, events and events have been canceled in a row and restaurants and hotels have remained closed for months.
In addition, there is the greatly reduced travel traffic and thus the elimination of millions of spontaneous purchases at kiosks, petrol stations, train stations and airports.
The industry representative is a bit appalled by the final figures on soft drinks consumption in this country: the per capita consumption of lemonades and cola, spritzers and showers as well as energy drinks and aromas is an impressive seven liters to just 114.4 liters - Watering collapsed according to WAFG calculations.
Source: WORLD infographic
There were surplus sales in the food retail trade.
"The gap caused by the collapsed out-of-home market could only be lessened as a result," reports Groß.
At least for most companies.
"Of course, the extent to which people are affected varies widely," says the expert.
For example, those who are primarily rooted in the bar scene have failures of more than 80 percent and are therefore in dire straits, can be heard from the industry.
This primarily refers to small providers who have fought their way into the market in recent years.
But also Coca-Cola European Partners, the largest independent bottler of top dog Coca-Cola, has to report a minus of 6.5 percent for the German market, according to the "Getränke-Zeitung", which given the market volume of Coke, Fanta, Sprite and Co . in the end corresponds to enormous sums and quantities.
The exact opposite is available at Bionade.
The eco-limo has grown significantly despite the market crisis and is thus crowning its comeback since the change of ownership from the Radeberger Group to Hassia at the beginning of 2018.
The brand from the tranquil Rhön town of Ostheim reports an impressive 37 percent increase, at least for the food retail sector.
Market leadership is back
The gastronomy losses still have to be deducted from this.
The bottom line, however, is still clear double-digit growth, as Marketing Manager Svenja Lonicer reports in an interview with WELT.
"The turnaround is finally achieved, Bionade has regained market leadership among organic lemonades."
At the top, Bionade has replaced the “Vio Bio” brand from Coca-Cola.
For years, the global corporation was able to take advantage of the eco-pioneer's weak phase.
Now Bionade seems to have found its way back to its old strength.
And apparently with the simplest means: new types, new containers, new marketing.
“As the founder of this market segment, Bionade has always had huge potential.
The previous owner just didn't understand how to lift it, ”says Franz-Rudolf Esch, founder and managing director of the consulting company Esch.The Brand Consultants.
Radeberger did far too little for the brand.
"But the bottles don't sell on their own."
Especially when you're stuck in a downward vortex anyway.
And after a downright meteoric rise, Bionade catapulted itself into it with a price increase in 2008 that consumers perceived as outrageous. At that time, the price for a box with 24 third-liter bottles was increased by more than 30 percent from 13 to 18 euros To have the ever larger expansion plans financed by its own customers, as the founders openly admitted at the time.
"Now they have become greedy," said angry consumers in relevant forums - and migrated in droves.
With the Oetker subsidiary Radeberger, a financially strong investor came on board.
But that also turned out to be counterproductive, as experts say it lost the aura of the small, friendly underdog company.
And then the big money obviously didn't flow either, wonders brand connoisseur Esch.
"In the end there wasn't even any more advertising."
For a good three years now, Bionade has belonged to the Hessian beverage manufacturer Hassia, a family company with 1750 employees, almost 280 million euros in sales and several brands in the portfolio such as Rosbacher, Elisabethen and Thuringian Waldquell for mineral waters, the Rapp's press or Vita Cola.
This new owner then took a lot of time to understand the brand and the market.
For months there was analysis, research, questioning - and then investments were made in production, design, marketing and customer approach.
Even in the crisis and pandemic year 2020. And this meticulousness is now paying off.
"The new owner understands the brand, believes in it and thus activates the undoubtedly existing potential," explains brand consultant Esch.
"Also by reviving topics such as naturalness, honesty and attitude."
Environment projects help
Bionade's participation in the “Diversity 2030” project, in which the company works with the Biodiversity Foundation run by Ingrid and Dirk Steffens, the well-known filmmaker and science journalist, fits in well with this.
“The aim is to preserve biodiversity and promote environmental education,” explains Lonicer from Bionade.
In March and April, Bionade is launching a limited bottle edition of the raspberry-plum variety, of which five cents per bottle will go to the foundation.
In addition, customers receive flower seeds as an addition to the boxes they have bought.
Bionade donates five cents from the sales of a bottle of the raspberry-plum variety to an environmental foundation
And Bionade itself unseals areas at its own locations, for example to create orchards and set up insect hotels.
At the same time, there will soon be QR codes on the bottles of the elderberry variety, which interested consumers can use to land on a web app that shows where the ingredients in the respective bottle come from.
The project is called “Connecting Food”.
"You can then see, for example, where the elderberry grows, by which farmer it is harvested and processed, practically from the tree to the bottle," explains Lonicer, who sees the issue of transparency as the next big trend in the food and beverage market.
"Bionade is thus back to its own roots and activates its brand credit with consumers," believes the expert Esch.
The fact that such approaches are gaining in importance for millions of consumers is also due to the corona crisis.
"The pandemic is increasing consumer awareness of issues such as the environment and sustainability," says Esch and refers, among other things, to new record numbers for the organic sector.
Organic market increases by more than 20 percent
In fact, the market for organically produced food rose by over 20 percent to almost 15 billion euros in the 2020 pandemic, as reported by the Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft (BÖLW).
“This resulted in a different appreciation,” says Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU).
This also fits in with the return of consumers to glass packaging for drinks instead of plastic pulls.
For Bionade, Lonicer reports an increase in the proportion of glass in the bottles sold to 95 percent after 80 percent in 2018.
The new success of Bionade with around 60 million fillings, according to market estimates, is due to the fact that the focus is still on the comparatively simple craft of soft drinks.
There are now the varieties “Naturtrüb Lemon” and “Naturtrüb Orange”, both of which are far removed from the exotic flavors that have been common up to now, such as lychee, herbs, fruit or blackcurrant-rosemary.
The mainstream varieties in particular are now proving to be growth drivers and are already number two and three in Bionade's variety ranking behind elderberries.
No wonder: after all, around three quarters of sales in the German lemonade market are accounted for by classic varieties such as lemon and orange.
"We are thus positioning ourselves more broadly and are reaching new target groups," explains Bionade marketing director Lonicer, and has the right figures from market research ready: "In 2020, in addition to fans and returnees, we won 15 percent new buyers."
A new bottle size certainly contributed to this.
Bionade is now also available in half-liter bottles with a screw cap.
“This increases the occasions and situations of consumption,” explains maker Lonicer.
Bionade enters the mate market
Because now a bottle no longer has to be drunk immediately, but can also be drunk throughout the day.
Bionade also uses this new container to attack a previously unused market segment: Mate.
Currently, the two providers Club-Mate and Mio Mio Mate share around 90 percent of the volume estimated at 25 million liters in Germany, as it is called in the industry.
"We want to stir up this market now," Lonicer says fiercely.
Tests in the six focus cities of Cologne, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Stuttgart and Freiburg have already been successful, and now the tea-based drink is also being sold in the rest of the country, initially in the varieties pure mate and peach mate.
From April mate lime will also be added.
The renaissance of Bionade has not gone unnoticed by retailers either.
The brand has long been getting better and bigger placements in supermarkets and beverage retailers.
And the number of promotions is also increasing.
"This is a sign that the brand's relevance has increased," says consultant Esch.
After all, retailers only include those products in their brochures that they consider to be high-frequency drivers.
Bionade has no influence on this, as marketing woman Lonicer emphasizes.
"Offers and prices are solely a matter for retailers." She does not consider the fact that presence and the frequency of promotions have increased significantly compared to previous years to be problematic.
"Unlike beer or juice, the relationship between supply and normal price is still very healthy."
Lonicer also sees this as an opportunity to make further progress in the overall lemonade market after returning to the top of the organic limo market.
Bionade is currently in fourth place behind Fanta, Sprite and Deit.
In the medium term, however, it should be enough for the podium.