Calories drive consumers away from carbonates

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 1st April 2009

A new report from market researcher Mintel shows today’s adults rapidly switching from calorie-laden soft drinks to other, often lighter, beverages.

From 2003 to 2008, Mintel estimates that the regular carbonated soft drink market lost 15.6 million adult drinkers. Just 68% of respondents to Mintel’s November 2008 survey in the US said they drank regular soft drinks in 2008, down from 76% in 2003. During the same period, the number of diet soft drink drinkers grew: 7.8 million more adults reported drinking diet soda in 2008 than in 2003.

“Regular soda has taken the brunt of criticism from America’s obesity and health issues, because people associate it with ’empty’ calories and artificial ingredients,” Krista Faron, senior analyst at Mintel, stated. “As health and wellness awareness grows, more people are turning away from old-fashioned pop and looking for healthier, lower calorie drinks, as well as drinks that offer the functionality to meet their specific lifestyle needs.”

The greatest changes in drinking habits have occurred outside the soft drink market. As consumers adopt healthier lifestyles and look for new beverages to go with them, Mintel has seen rapid growth in the number of people who regularly drink non-soda options:
Bottled Water – 24 million more Americans drank bottled water in 2008 than in 2003
Energy Drinks – Driven by young adults, the number of energy drink users nearly doubled from 2003 to 2008 (to 34.5 million from 17.4 million)
Sports Drinks – In the past five years, 11 million adults started drinking sports drinks

One in three beverage-purchasing adults (34%) said they’re drinking more water and less carbonated beverages to manage weight or other health conditions, compared to 2006. In addition to weight control, many people are concerned about high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, causing them to turn away from all kinds of soda. Mintel found 16% of respondents worry about the health risks of high-fructose corn syrup, while 15% say they’re drinking less artificially sweetened beverages because of risks.

“During the past few years, health and wellness issues have come to the forefront of people’s minds, and we see that strongly reflected their changing beverage choices,” Ms Faron said. “Manufacturers have done well at keeping pace with people’s new preferences, and we expect continued momentum in tea, coffee drinks and diet soda in particular.”