From: Reuters
Published March 12, 2008 05:59 PM

U.S. soft drink sales volume falls more in '07

By Martinne Geller

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The volume of soft drinks sold in the United States fell more sharply last year, industry publication Beverage Digest reported on Wednesday, as consumers chose other options like bottled water and teas.

Beverage Digest said total U.S. sales volume of carbonated soft drinks fell 2.3 percent to 9.92 billion cases in 2007, after declines of 0.6 percent in 2006 and 0.2 percent in 2005.

"The carbonated soft drink industry has moved from roughly 3 percent growth in the 1990s to increasing rates of decline in the last three years," the report said.

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"Primarily, consumers have been interested by and migrated toward other categories like bottled water and ready-to-drink teas," said Beverage Digest publisher John Sicher in an interview. "Secondly, the price increases of the last several years have also had a dampening effect on volume."

But the retail dollar value of U.S. carbonated soft drink sales was up about 2.7 percent to $72 billion due to the popularity of higher-priced energy drinks and price increases of traditional soft drinks.

According to Beverage Digest, which tracks beverage sales at stores, vending machines and fountains, Coca-Cola Co <KO.N> and PepsiCo Inc <PEP.N> each experienced a 2.7 percent decline in 2007 volume and both lost market share.

By contrast, Cadbury Schweppes Plc <CBRY.L>, the No. 3 soft-drink maker by volume, saw its U.S. volume fall only 1.4 percent, while it gained market share, helped by growing brands such as Diet Dr Pepper, whose volume rose 3.2 percent.

Coke, Pepsi and Cadbury have all been investing in noncarbonated drinks lately. Coke paid $4.1 billion to acquire vitamin water maker Glaceau, Pepsi is introducing new higher-end Tropicana juices and Gatorade drinks and Cadbury introduced a new sports drink called Accelerade.

As in 2006, the strongest performers among carbonated drinks were companies specializing in so-called energy drinks, which are carbonated beverages with stronger caffeine kicks.

Annual volume rose 35 percent for Monster energy drink maker Hansen Natural Corp <HANS.O>, nearly 39 percent for the maker of the Rockstar energy drink and 19 percent for Austria-based Red Bull GmbH.

But the nation's top soft drink brands -- Coke Classic, Pepsi-Cola and Diet Coke -- remained the same.

Beverage Digest estimates that the U.S. annual per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks fell to about 789 8-ounce servings in 2007, down from 814 in 2006, 828 in 2005 and 849 in 2000. A typical soft-drink can holds 12 ounces.

"Even with the recent declines, the U.S. still has the highest carbonated soft drink per capita (consumption) in the world," Sicher wrote in the magazine.

Sicher added in an interview that the annual per capita consumption in Saudi Arabia was 261 in 2006, the latest year for which data could be obtained, compared with 32 in China and 9 in India.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been aggressively expanding in international markets to offset slower growth at home.

(Editing by Leslie Gevirtz, Gerald E. McCormick, Gary Hill)

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