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U.S. Soda Sales Continue to Fall

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Going by the latest report from Beverage Digest, a leading beverage industry newsletter, 2013 was yet another challenging year for the U.S. beverage industry with deteriorating carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) volumes.  The three top soft drink firms – The Coca-Cola Company (KO), PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP) and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. (DPS) – lost volume in 2013.

Total liquid refreshment beverages (LRBs) volume declined 1.6% in 2013, worse than the growth of 1% in 2012 and 0.8% in 2011. Most of the decline stemmed from dwindling CSD volume, which in fact is the biggest category. In 2013, CSD (including energy drinks) sales volume declined 3%, worse than a shortfall of 1.2% in 2012 and 1% in 2011.

The CSD category has now declined for the ninth straight year due to growing health and wellness consciousness -- consumers are particularly vigilant about the use of artificial sweeteners, high sugar content and related obesity concerns. Among CSDs the cola segment has particularly come under fire as consumers look for alternative beverage offerings. The challenges in the CSD category have been felt by all major soft drink makers – Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper – with lower volumes and weakening sales.

Per the report, while Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple and Monster Beverage Corp. (MNST) gained market share, PepsiCo lost share in 2013. Coca-Cola trumped over its arch-rival Pepsi as it managed to record narrower volume loss in the LRB and CSD categories.

Also among the CSD brands, Coca Cola took the top spot with its regular Coke and Diet Coke taking the #1 and #2 positions. While Pepsi’s four brands were among the top 10, Dr Pepper had just 1 in the list. Coca-Cola’s Coke Zero took the #10 position.

The slide in the regular soft drinks market started quite a few years back while the diet versions have begun to struggle of late with consumers being increasingly aware of diet sweeteners. In fact, the regular versions of Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper and Mountain Dew outperformed their diet versions in 2013, the report said.

Energy drinks, however, did well last year, growing 5%. If not for energy drinks, CSD volumes would have declined 3.3%. In fact, energy drink companies, Monster and the Austrian company, Red Bull, gained share in the year.

Most of the beverage giants are expecting growth to accelerate in 2014 through aggressive marketing investments, innovation, accelerated cost savings and productivity improvements. However, we believe that until volumes improve and category challenges subside, the industry will continue to see a downslide.

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