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NEW YORK — Americans are spending less money on soda these days, with total U.S. dollars spent on carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) declining 1 percent over the last four years. The decline has cost the soda industry over $1 billion in sales, according to Nielsen. However, other carbonated beverages are seeing more positive results.
Much of the drop appears to be driven by a steep decline in diet soda sales, which fell nearly 5 percent during the same four-year period. Conversely, regular soda sales initially declined but have grown in the past two years. This may be driven by recent trends toward all-natural ingredients.
Consumers are increasingly going back to basics and seeking out foods that are fresh, natural and minimally processed. In Nielsen's 2015 Global Health and Wellness Survey, 29 percent of U.S. respondents rated "all natural" as very important, and 40 percent said the same about the absence of artificial colors and flavors.
At the same time, consumers still enjoy fizzy drinks. U.S. sparkling water sales have seen a spike in growth, increasing more than 15 percent in four years. North American sales of healthy categories such as water, fruit and yogurt also grew 7 percent over the past two years, while sales of indulgent categories such as CSDs, chips and chocolate fell 8 percent.
Alongside health benefits, what isn't included plays a major role in consumers' purchase decisions. Roughly one-third of U.S. respondents say that it's very important that foods are low in sugar (27 percent) and fat (25 percent), while approximately one-quarter of respondents believe the absence of high fructose corn syrup (33 percent) and caffeine (16 percent) is very important.
Despite these changes, the $26 billion in sales that soda saw last year mean that soda's popularity won't fizzle out any time soon, Nielsen said.