Worldwide consumption of soft drinks last year posted a small rise, according to recent figures. The 2005 Global Soft Drinks report from drinks consultancy Zenith International claimed today (15 December) that consumption in 2004 was up by 3.5% year-on-year to 480bn litres, equivalent to 75 litres per person.

Growth was led by 'better for you' beverages such as bottled water, pure fruit juices and functional drinks, the report noted

"Although carbonated soft drinks remain the largest market with 40% of total volume, consumers are increasingly turning to alternative 'healthier' drinks, especially in more developed economies," noted Zenith research director Gary Roethenbaugh. "Headline-making concerns about obesity, along with debates on advertising and vending restrictions, are causing consumers to reappraise their choices. High profile launches of new options by almost all manufacturers are encouraging this conversion to healthier drinks. Carbonates are adapting too, but still drinks are proving a stronger platform."

In North America, sales of carbonated soft drinks were flat in 2003 and 2004, while in Europe, a hot summer contributed to a 1.4% increase in 2003, but 2004 witnessed a fall of 2.8%. However, in emerging economies, carbonates continue to achieve high growth rates. Consumption in Asia/Australasia, for example, rose 5.7% and 5.6% in 2003 and 2004 respectively, led by Pakistan, India and China.

Bottled water growth slowed to 4.7% in 2004, following poor weather in Europe, after recording a 9.6% uplift in 2003. Still fruit and tea drinks fared best in 2004, advancing by 8%, boosted by the emergence of new functional beverages including sports drinks. Overall, carbonated soft drinks edged ahead by 1.8%.

Taking all soft drinks together, the greatest growth last year came from the developing market of Asia/Australasia, achieving an 8.7% increase. Elsewhere, the Middle East grew by 6.5%, Africa by 6%, East Europe and Latin America by 4.4% each, and North America by 2.7%. West Europe was the only region that recorded a fall in consumption during 2004, declining by 2.6% after a weak summer.

The report predicts that, in 2007, Asia/Australasia is forecast to pass North America as the largest soft drinks region. By 2009, Zenith expects the global soft drinks market will have grown a further 20% to over 575bn litres.