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Sales slip forcing soda rethink

Beverage makers must accept that falling carbonated soft drink sales are part of a long-term trend, according to the Hartman Group, based in Washington state. But don't panic, the market researcher advised.

With the mainstream media predicting the demise of soda after sales fell for the first time in 20 years, Hartman offers more tempered advice. "Simply put, we do not foresee a day in the near future in which consumers will be consuming higher levels of carbonated soft drinks — be they conventional, alternative or diet — than they have in the past 10 years," the report said. "However, this does not mean consumers will abandon the category altogether or that consumption will soon be in free-fall."

The report pinpointed sugar consumption concerns as the major factor in dwindling sales. "This desire is, itself, driven by its own complex, inter-related set of concerns, which include: health, nutrition, type II diabetes, obesity, energy, ADHD, hyperactivity, mental health, depression, etc.," Hartman observed. "And while some consumers continue to address this concern by opting for diet carbonated soft drinks, we see this percentage shrinking in the coming years with the growing concern expressed for all manner of sugar substitutes — be they artificial or natural."

The report added: "To the uninitiated, the recent release of 7UP's 7UP PLUS — a Splenda-based beverage featuring 10 calories, 2 grams of carbs and 10 per cent of the RDA of calcium per eight-ounce serving — might seem like the perfect answer for today's health-conscious consumer. Yet, when examined within the context of our occasion-based learnings, such a proposition seems ill-fitted at best. Masquerading your traditional carbonated soft drink offerings as something other than soft drinks will only make your brand appear out of touch and risk alienating your consumer."

Alternative beverages need to focus on those occasions mainstream consumers seek a non-carbonated beverage. "Whether it be because of a felt need to decrease traditional carbonated soft drink consumption, to drink more water or to experiment with alternative beverages, consumers are increasingly demanding more innovative beverages that provide a 'better fit' for their contemporary lifestyles."

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