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NEW YORK -- In an effort to increase dipping soda sales, leading soft-drink distributors are going back to the drawing board in hopes of producing a new alternative to the old staple -- the 20-ounce bottle that first hit the shelves in the early 1990s.
With sales prices similar to a 2-liter bottle, 20-ounce plastic bottles have been a profitable delivery tool. However, a slowing economy coupled with Americans focusing on healthy living has soda companies scrambling.
According to Beverage Digest, U.S. soda sales in major retail channels overall declined 3.5 percent in the first quarter, with convenience-store sales dropping 4.2 percent. The industry publication noted that the 20-ounce bottle accounts for most convenience-store soda sales.
With the intent of better understanding the consumer, several Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottlers began conducting pilot tests on a variety of bottle sizes. The Wall Street Journal reported Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated this week launched a test in approximatley 1,700 convenience stores in Virginia where it has replaced 20-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and other brands with 16-ounce and 24-ounce bottles.
The paper reported that the Charlotte, N.C., company began planning the aforementioned tests last year when it noticed soda sales dipping in favor of health drinks. Mel Landis, the bottler's chief marketing and customer officer, told The Wall Street Journal the plan was to offer consumers more packaging choices in convenience stores and grocery stores such as 12-ounce cans, 2-liter bottles and other package sizes.
Landis told the paper that the 16-ounce bottles are generally priced at 99 cents, less expensive than the 20-ounce bottles. The 24-ounce size, aimed at heavy soda drinkers, is priced at as much as $1.49, as much as 20 cents more than the 20-ounce bottles they replaced.
Beverage Digest reported that Pepsi Bottling Group Inc., Pepsi's largest bottler, will start testing 12-ounce and 16-ounce bottles in some markets alongside 20-ounce bottles next month.
A Pepsi spokesman told The Wall Street Journal the move "is about giving consumers more choices, and if that leads to more frequent transactions and greater volume, it's also a win for our customers, our bottlers and us."