Fizz Fades for Soft Drinks Industry

By Strom, Stephanie | International Herald Tribune, May 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

Fizz Fades for Soft Drinks Industry


Strom, Stephanie, International Herald Tribune


With Americans cutting back on carbonated soft drinks, Coke and Pepsi are banking more than ever on the other products in their portfolios and on increases in the price of soft drinks.

CORRECTION APPENDED

Cold, bubbly, sweet soft drinks, long the American Champagne, are becoming products non grata these days, as Americans abandon carbonated drinks, pushing companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi to rely more than ever on the "flat" drinks and bottled waters they sell.

U.S. schools are removing sugary soft drinks from vending machines at a faster pace, and local governments are stepping up efforts to take them out of public facilities, as American concerns about obesity and its costs grow.

Last year, the average American drank slightly less than two eight-ounce, or 240-milliliter, soft drinks a day, a drop in per capita consumption of about 16 percent since the peak in 1998, according to Beverage Digest, a trade publication.

"The question is: 'Are we seeing a modest, multiyear decline that will bottom out? Or are we seeing the beginning of a paradigm shift away from carbonated soft drinks?"' said John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest and a longtime observer of the industry. "I don't think anyone knows yet, but I think there are continuing headwinds against the category that aren't abating."

Health advocates are cautiously optimistic about the decline.

"It is really important because sugary soft drinks are the No. 1 source of calories in our diets," said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington. "We get more calories from sodas and sugary drinks than any other individual food -- cake, cookies, pizza, anything."

But Ms. Wootan and others are worried about what may be taking the place of soft drinks in the American diet. They note the increasing appetite for energy drinks, loaded with sugar as well as caffeine, and noncarbonated sports drinks, which may have as much sugar as carbonated soft drinks.

"This is the next stage of where battle lines being drawn," said Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, who often carries around a jar filled with two-and-a-third cups, or 550 milliliters, of sugar, the amount consumed by drinking a soft drink every day for one week. …

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