Coca-Cola continues to have the largest share of the soft drink market and its Dasani label is the fastest growing bottled water of the major brands, but carbonated beverage sales for the Atlanta-based company and its chief rival, Pepsi, were down in 2011.
U.S. soft drink sales fell for the seventh consecutive year in 2011 as consumers increasingly switched to energy drinks, water and teas, according to a new report.
While the nation's bestselling beverages remained No. 1 Coca-Cola, No. 2 Diet Coke and No. 3 Pepsi, volume for the carbonated drinks segment was down 1 percent in 2011, according to Beverage Digest's annual look at the industry's performance. That follows a 0.5 percent drop in 2010 and puts industry volume -- about 9.3 billion of 192-ounce cases -- at 1996 sales levels.
Non-carbonated drinks, however, saw strong growth. Energy drink companies Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar saw double-digit increases last year while sales volume for "mega brands" such as Gatorade, a Pepsi product, and Arizona, a tea, were up 8 percent and 9.3 percent respectively, Beverage Digest reported. Dasani, one of Atlanta-based Coke's water lines, grew 11 percent.
A separate industry study by Beverage Marketing Corporation, also released Tuesday, had similar findings, adding that coffee grew 9.4 percent.
When all products are combined -- soft drinks, water, teas, etc., -- volume in 2011 was up 0.8 percent compared to 2010.
Coke spokesman Dan Schafer said Dasani's success stemmed partly from consumer acceptance of the company's attempt to be eco-friendly.
"Our plant bottle packaging – made with up to 30 percent plant-based materials – was launched nationally last year with a major marketing campaign, and our consumer preference scores for this brand have continued to rise," he said.
Dave DeCecco, a spokesman for Pepsi North America Beverages, said consumers are not abandoning one category for another, but are embracing variety. They like that Gatorade is there after a workout while Pepsi goes well with a pizza.
"Consumers are interested in diversity and more options," he said.
The news for colas haven't been all bad. Sales of Coke Zero were up for the fifth year in a row in 2011, and regular Coke also saw volume grow in the fourth quarter, Schafer said.
And Pepsi, hoping to woo consumers who want reduced-calorie drinks but not the aftertaste, on Monday is releasing Pepsi Next, a new cola with 60 percent less sugar.
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The light rain that moved back into metro Atlanta early Sunday was expected to intensify later in the day, and forecasters said heavy rain could cause minor flooding across north Georgia Sunday night through Tuesday.