Soft drinks consumption slowing in US

18 May 2009

AUSTIN: The consumption of carbonated soft drinks has tripled among men and doubled among women in the US since the late 1970s, but has also started to decline from a peak of 54 gallons a year in 1998, a new study shows.

Gary B. Wilcox and Sara Kamal, from the University of Texas, and Harsha Gangadharbatla, of the University of Oregon, published research – which can be viewed here – in the International Journal of Advertising tracking consumption and adspend trends in the sector from 1984 to 2007.

The authors report that nine companies currently take a 95% share of total industry sales, led by Coca-Cola on 43% and Pepsi with 31%.

Americans were also found to drink an average of 192 gallons of liquid each year, with carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) accounting for 28% of this total, reaching a high among 12–29 year old men.

Typical CSD consumption increased from 26.3 gallons to 51.5 gallons a year between 1975 and 2007, largely at the expense of coffee, which posted a decline from 31.4 gallons to 24.2 gallons over the same period.

Advocacy groups and politicians have often linked this trend with rising obesity levels, frequently citing the "intense marketing and advertising efforts of CSD manufacturers as a chief contributing factor for increased CSD consumption."

However, the new study argues that sales of soft drinks in the US have slowed since the late 1990s due to increased competition from alternatives like bottle water, energy drinks and teas.

It also posits that it is "difficult to identify a direct relationship between advertising and increased consumption" due to the complex relationship between advertising and consumption.

Rather, "CSD advertising might influence consumers, especially teens, in choosing a particular brand of soft drink" but typically was no more important than "upbringing, friends and healthy eating habits."

Data sourced from International Journal of Advertising; additional content by WARC staff