By just-drinks.com editorial team | 3 February 2004
'Diet', 'Light', 'Low Cal', 'Sugar-free' - whatever the moniker - the diet soft drink industry is experiencing unprecedented growth, especially in the US, as concerns over obesity and health put the spotlight on new diet drinks and marketing investment. Annette Sessions reports.
It was back in 1982 that The Coca-Cola Company developed its Diet Coke variant (now the third best selling carbonated soft drink in the US and the world) and it is in diet-conscious America that the low-cal category has surged. John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, confirmed that in the US 'diets' have "way out-performed" regular carbonates. The latest supermarket figures from the US from Beverage Digest show that in the first 11 months of 2003 "diets" were up by a healthy 6.3% against a drop of 2.4% in regular products.
And health/obesity issues are fuelling the growth. More and more people in the US, says Sicher, are controlling their intake of carbohydrates and calories. Low cal/low carb, it seems, is the mantra of the day for US consumers.
Sicher forecasts that this year the trend towards diet drinking will continue
with accelerated activity from the big three bottlers: Coca-Cola (Coke, Sprite, Fanta), PepsiCo (Pepsi, Sierra Mist, Mountain Dew) and Cadburys (Dr Pepper, 7/Up, A & W, RC Cola, Sunkist). Coca-Cola already has launched Diet Coke with Lime and is reported to have developed a 'Project Light' initiative aimed at increasing in-store display and theatre for its diet drinks, whilst Pepsi is reported as saying it is increasing advertising spend on its Diet Pepsi Brand.
Dr Pepper the best selling non-cola diet carbonated soft drink is also investing in the category. "We conduct a lot of ongoing consumer research and know that, for numerous reasons, many people are moving to a lifestyle that includes more low calorie beverages," explained Jim Trebilcock, senior vice president-consumer marketing. "We call our 2004 Diet Dr Pepper marketing plan 'Diet Riot' because we are tapping into the consumer trend that pushed diet soft drink numbers up. There is no question in our minds about the potential to continue the significant growth trend for Diet Dr Pepper in 2004."
Although, as John Sicher points out, nearly all the diet activity in the US is within carbonates, the news this month from Florida that Tropicana Products Inc. has launched its Essential range of juice products which includes a Light 'n' Healthy variant shows the diet movement is infiltrating other categories. Tropicana maintains that 27% of the US population is now considered obese and that weight management is top of minds among consumers,
The Healthy Beverage Company of Pennsylvania, for example, has just launched Diet Steaz Sparkling Green Tea. Co-Founder Eric Schnell proclaims that it will "revolutionise the diet drinks industry." The drink is certified organic and is fortified with vitamins and the Hawaiian stevia plant. It comes in Black Cherry, LemonLime and Cola flavours, lightly sweetened with 5g per serving of organic cane juice.
In the energy sector, a sugar-free variant has been introduced by Raw Dawg. This zero-calorie/zero-carb energy drink is said to offer a unique and refreshing flavour. It is described as having a lighter and more delicate flavour without the 'diet' feeling.
And this is not just a US phenomenon. In Europe, Coca-Cola France is putting low calorie drinks at the heart of its development strategy. Coca-Cola 'Light' Lemon, launched in June 2002, is now being bought by 3m households which, says the company, illustrates the French consumer's enthusiasm for 'light' drinks. In Spain, Coca-Cola has launched Burn Sugar Free, a new low-calorie variety of its energy drink developed for the Spanish palate. The sugar-free variant is packaged in 250ml silver aluminium cans with graphics intended to attract the "young and style-conscious".
And in the UK, Diet Coke hit the headlines in December 2003 with the news that it had overtaken its 'big brother' Coca-Cola to become Britain's best-selling drink. According to research carried out by The Grocer, Diet Coke sales had exceeded £200m for the first time.
Rival Diet Pepsi has also notched up some impressive figures. The latest data released by Britvic Soft Drinks (AC Nielsen MAT to Sept 03) show that in Take Home the brand is worth £62m with an 8% growth over last year (regular Pepsi grew by 6%). In the On Trade, the brand is worth £249m with 28% value growth year on year (the regular brand grew by16%). Interestingly, Pepsi Max outperformed both the regular and diet versions in Take Home with a 9% growth over the last year.
Meanwhile, Red Bull maintains that 21% of all soft drink products consumed in the UK are of the sugar-free diet variety. The company's version (8 calories per can) was launched in direct response to the increasing demand for diet drinks. Since being introduced to the market 12 months ago, Red Bull Sugarfree has added 29% to the functional energy drinks category.
All the lifestyle indicators are in place - health, nutrition, children's obesity, school vending issues - for marketers to aggressively promote the diet category. Although January is traditionally recognised as the dieting month, it seems highly likely that 'diets' will remain top of mind throughout the year.
Sectors: Soft drinks
View next/previous articles
4 Feb 2004 -
3 Feb 2004 -
Currently reading -
3 Feb 2004 -
3 Feb 2004 -