Soft drinks brands must lead the way in encouraging consumers to switch to healthier and non-sugar alternatives, according to PepsiCo.

Speaking at the UK Soft Drinks Industry Conference late last week, general manager of Pepsi UK and Ireland Garrett Quigley told attendees that the soft drinks industry can make a difference to the diets of the UK population if it changes the way it markets products.

“The food and beverage industry are under pressure to change their habits and reformulate,” Quigley said. “Going forward we have signed up to a range of commitments and we have made pledges in a number of areas.”

He added: “Widespread media attention is on improving the diet of the population, and the pressure is on brands to reinforce this through their marketing and advertising efforts.”

Quigley added that Pepsi is aiming to transform its portfolio towards providing a more healthier product, alongside its recently published Health Report 2010.

Pledges within the report include; encouraging a wider availability of no sugar drinks in cinemas, theme parks and pubs by 2012, 60% of its total volume defined as healthier by 2015, and to invest 70% of its R&D budget to deliver healthier products by 2012.

Also speaking at the conference, Zenith International revealed that, while over the last ten-years soft drinks in the UK had experienced steady growth, CSD’s was the only category to experience a decline.

Senior analyst Victoria Milne told attendees: “The trend has moved towards healthy refreshment drinks as consumers look for taste and refreshment but also drinks that are good for you. Health and the five-a-day awareness should boost the category going forward.”