Low-calorie carbonated soft drinks will be the main driver for growth in CSDs, according to a recent report.

Industry analyst Canadean forecast that one in every seven litres of CSDs sold around the world during 2006 would have been a low-calorie 'diet' or 'light' variant. The estimate was included in Canadean's newly-published Global Carbonates report.

"With the carbonates category showing the symptoms of maturity in many of the more established regions around the world, the low calorie segment will play an important role in maintaining consumption levels in these markets into the future," Canadean said.

"The rate of low calorie penetration does vary significantly and is related to how developed the category is in each region," Canadean added. "In the mature North American region, which accounted for 29% of global sales in 2006, low calorie products make up as much as 30% of all sales, while in the fast growing Asian carbonates market they are responsible for less than 2% of volumes.

"While low calorie drinks are making headway in every part of the world, in Asia, the 'diet' segment will have lost share between 2004 and 2006."

While carbonates remain the most important soft drink category, with more than 40% of soft drink sales in 2006, the category's overall share has slipped from 50% as recently as 1998, Canadean said.

Packaged waters have been the main pressure on shrinking share, and are now responsible for 28% of global soft drink volumes. Share may be falling but the global carbonates market is still expanding, the analyst added.

Global sales of CSDs are expected to increase by 2% between 2006 and 2009, passing the 200bn litre mark in 2007, Canadean estimated. This equates to per capita global consumption of 31 litres.