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TUCO spotlights Soft Drinks framework


The Universities Caterers Organisation (or TUCO) is one of CPC’s established supply partners.

Among the frameworks TUCO presents is the Soft Drinks and Associated Products offering.

This framework went live in October 2018 and is set to remain active until September 2026.

In obtaining free membership of TUCO, CPC members can make use of this framework to replenish and refresh their soft drinks inventory, keeping students and staff alike adequately hydrated on site.

The TUCO Soft Drinks and Associated Products framework is divided into five separate lots.

Across these lots, TUCO offer a range of commodities including, but not limited to, juice drinks, dilutables, bottled waters, energy and protein drinks, as well as fruit juice machines/dispensers.

The five lots are categorised as follows:

  • Lot 1 - Carbonated Soft Drinks
  • Lot 2 - Still Soft Drinks
  • Lot 3 - Sports, Health & Energy
  • Lot 4 - Bottled Water
  • Lot 5 - Concentrated Juice & Dispensers

The suppliers who feature across the lots are listed as below:

  • Barr PLC
  • BFS Group Ltd. T/A Bidfood
  • Brakes
  • Catering Services supplies Ltd.
  • Coca-Cola Enterprises
  • Dunster’s Farm foodservice
  • Janes Beverages Foodservice Ltd.
  • Krogab UK Ltd.

Here’s TUCO’s overview of the category, showcased in their latest Framework Focus.

History of soft drinks

During the Middle Ages, apart from water taken from rivers (which was always deemed unsafe to consume), low strength alcohol beers were brewed for poor people, intended to hydrate. And while in the 1600s spa towns became popular across the UK, it wasn’t until a century later that spa water was bottled for its suggested medicinal benefits. Cordial also became popular around this time.

Moving into the 1760s, it was at this time that Dr. Joseph Priestly discovered how to carbonate water, following which equipment to do so was quickly developed for the commercial manufacturing of fizzy drinks. In 1833 carbonated water and lemon cordial was combined to create lemonade and ginger beer was also invented at the same time. Both drinks became so popular that by the 1840s, there were more than 50 manufacturers in London alone. Soft drinks were packed in glass bottles, which were very expensive back then. The bottles had to be returnable so they could be washed and reused. As soft drinks became a popular part of people’s diets, grocers either bought them from manufacturers or made their own to sell in their shops, while manufacturers offered home deliveries using horse drawn carts, collecting empty bottles in the process.

Soft drinks industry was boosted during World War I, as the British army gave soda water to front line troops, and even more so during World War II as American troops entered Britain requiring popular soft drinks, however rationing restricted availability. After the war, once rationing had been lifted soft drink manufacturing grew on an unprecedented scale. Bottles used in this process were now lighter and some soft drinks were even sold in cans.

Fruit juices started to be packaged and sold like soft drinks, first in bottles and later in cartons. It was in the late 1970s that manufacturers began packaging soft drinks in plastic bottles, making them even more portable and practical.

Today, the soft drinks industry is one of the planet’s most popular and competitive industries, with consumption worldwide more than 600bn litre and annual sales in the UK on average of £14bn.

The HE sector

Students are always looking for new tastes and formats in soft drinks, therefore, the soft drinks industry must be both innovative and dynamic when manufacturing, which is key to success.

The main categories of soft drink products are carbonated, dilutables, still and juice drinks, sports and energy drinks, bottled water (still, sparkling and flavoured) and concentrated fruit juices.

Health issues and changing lifestyles have influenced shifts in consumption, most significantly a shift from regular to no-, low- and mid-calorie variants. A shortage of fluid can lead to dehydration, resulting in headaches, loss of concentration, and other symptoms. On average, each person should aim to consume around two litres of fluid from food and drink each day, even more so in hot weather or during exercise.


The primary function of packaging is to protect the product, maintain safety and quality, and ensure the product reaches the consumer in the same condition as when it was first produced - and maintains this throughout its shelf life. Today, the most popular varieties of packaging used in the soft drinks industry are glass, plastic, cans and cartons.

Glass is the oldest type of packaging for soft drinks, fruit juices and waters. The advantage of glass packaging is that it is chemically inert and will not affect quality, odour or taste of product. It is strong, rigid and 100% recyclable.

Plastic (mainly polyethylene terephthalate) PET is a popular choice for packaging because it is lightweight, flexible and recyclable. It can be used for both still and carbonated products. The average PET plastic bottles are now containing 25% less PET than ten years ago.

Cans, including aluminium and steel, are mainly used for carbonated drinks. They are 100% recyclable and lightweight. Using recycled aluminium to make a new can saves 95% of the energy that would be needed to make a can from virgin materials. Today, the average can uses 35% less aluminium than it did 10 years ago, with steel cans containing 50% less steel.

Beverage cartons are a major packaging format for still drinks and fruit juices. They protect the freshness, flavours and nutritional qualities of both fresh and long-life drink products, enabling distribution at ambient temperatures or under refrigerated conditions. They are made from natural renewable resources, are low carbon and now 92% of UK Local Authorities recycle cartons.

Recycling packaging

As soft drinks are packaged using recyclable materials, consumers are encouraged to recycle empty bottles rather than throw them away.

Some consumers tend to refill an empty bottle for re-use; however, this is not always advisable as the bottles used to supply soft drinks, are not intended to be re-used due to the washing that would be necessary to maintain acceptable standards of hygiene.

The reduction of packaging waste has always been a primary concern of the soft drinks industry. The industry has consistently been at the forefront of packaging innovations and is constantly looking at ways to reduce the number of raw materials used in various types of packaging.

For over a century, the UK has had a doorstep collection of glass bottles, however, since the Household Waste Recycling Act 2003, that required local authorities in England to provide every household with a separate collection of at least two types of recyclable materials by 2010, all bottle types have been recycled kerbside.

Deposit Return Scheme

The Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is a recycling scheme where consumers pay a 20p deposit on a beverage in a single use container, which can be reclaimed upon return of the empty container.

This deposit acts as an incentive to support behavioural change and encourage recycling and is redeemed when the consumer returns the empty container to a return point. Typically, retailers accept and process returns automatically through a ‘reverse vending machine’, or manually using a collection bag in store. The containers are then collected and recycled, supporting bottle-to-bottle use of materials.

The soft drinks and bottled water sectors have always taken recycling, littering and the environment very seriously. They lead the industry in recyclable packaging, with plastic bottles and cans easily recyclable and widely collected for recycling across the country.

Recycling/recovery rates for drinks containers have increased over the years, but there is still room for improvement. Industry estimates suggest a UK recycling collection rates of 74% for plastic drinks bottles, and 72% for aluminium drinks cans.

A well-designed DRS should also improve the quality and increase the quantity of material collected for recycling and reuse, supporting bottle-to-bottle, and canto-can recycling, and working towards the circular economy we all want to see.

The Deposit Return Scheme introduces new requirements and recycling responsibilities for businesses operating across the UK including retailers, producers, and hospitality, and 2023 sees the first deposit return scheme in the UK go live in Scotland. The scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is due to follow in 2024.

If you wish to find out more about the Soft Drinks and Associated Products framework, including how to access and use it as a CPC member, contact CPC Senior Contracts and Procurement Officer, Majid Khan, via [email protected]

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