Soft-Drink Consumption Continues to Decline

The U.S. carbonated soft-drink market slipped 2.1 percent to a total of approximately 9.4 billion cases in 2009. This is the industry’s fifth consecutive year of decline, according to a new report by Beverage Digest.

With the growing popularity of alternatives like bottled water, the carbonated soft-drink market has dropped from a 3 percent growth rate in the 1990s to varying rates of decline, the trade publication said.

The industry’s two big carbonated brands continued to lose ground, with Coca-Cola down 4 percent and Pepsi dropping 5.5 percent in 2009. (Pepsi fell below 1 billion cases in 2008 for the first time in “decades,” according to Beverage Digest.)  Both Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo lost share and volume in 2009. Coca-Cola’s carbonated soft-drink volume dropped 3.9 percent, while PepsiCo was down 5 percent.

Dr. Pepper Snapple, however, posted a gain of 4.8 percent in 2009, after dropping 1.3 percent in 2008. The company’s sales were boosted by the growth of Crush, which saw a 377 percent increase in cases sold, after it became part of the Pepsi bottling system. Dr. Pepper Snapple also benefited from the launch of the Dr. Pepper Cherry line, which generated sales of about 27 million cases of regular and diet versions.

The drop in carbonated soft drinks, growth challenges, and the recession were all contributing factors to the total liquid refreshment beverage sales declining in 2009, Beverage Digest said.  (The category includes carbonated and non-carbonated drinks and single serve bottles of water; it does not include refrigerated juices and juice drinks.) Coke’s liquid beverage volume dropped 3.1 percent, while PepsiCo declined 7.5 percent. Dr. Pepper Snapple, boosted by strong carbonated soft-drink sales, rose 3.3 percent.

Beverage Digest estimates that per-capita American consumption of carbonated soft drinks in 2009 fell to 736 eight-ounce servings, down from 760 servings in 2008. (Per capita consumption peaked in 1998 at 864 eight-ounce servings.) But even at current rates, which are nearly 15 percent lower than the peak, the U.S. still has the highest per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in the world, Beverage Digest said.