The fact that bad news travels faster than good, and is certainly more likely to make the headlines, is not lost on UK soft drinks companies, so it is somewhat surprising that the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) is only just getting around to appointing a media manager. Annette Farr welcomes the move.

The news that the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) is currently recruiting a media manager to secure, according to the job description, "positive coverage in the national and trade media", is certainly good news - and it is not before time.

The soft drinks industry often finds itself in the dock, facing generally hostile media attention, whether on dental, health or obesity grounds and, increasingly, environmental and sustainability issues, with few advocates on hand to represent producers.

The industry very much needs to engage with the media not only to dispel consumer worries but also to communicate good news. And, although good news seldom makes the headlines, there is, nonetheless, much to champion.

First, 2006 was a bumper year for UK soft drink manufacturers. According to the AC Nielsen/Grocer 2006 Top Product survey, sales in many soft drink categories have "rocketed". The survey is taken from actual in-store EPOS data from over 83,000 supermarkets and grocery retailers across the UK. It shows that the juice and smoothie category grew by 19% (innocent grew by 168%), waters grew by 10% and still drinks jumped by 8%. Excepting bread (at +10%), these figures outshone all other grocery categories.

To a great extent this upbeat performance was fuelled by the 2006 summer heatwave, but as Eleni Nicholas, managing director of AC Nielsen UK, points out: "Fruit drinks and water performed particularly well, because they have the double whammy of being refreshing and healthy, which is key to today's consumer."

Refreshment and health is another positive message. Consumers are spoilt for choice. Young start-up companies like The Juice Doctor and The Berry Company, which claim their drinks both taste good and are good for you, aim to bring product integrity to non-alcoholic drinking. And they also look to carry that product integrity through to packaging choice.

Research just published by the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association concludes that consumers are increasingly concerned about environmental credentials, especially when it comes to packaging. When asked to compare specific environmental influences on consumer choice, highest rated by drinks marketers was the 'recyclability of the packaging which contains the product'.

More good news to disseminate: carton, board, metal (aluminium and steel), glass and PET are all recyclable. Corporate responsibility is in evidence. Tetra Pak records that, in 2005, it recycled 83% of its factory's sold process waste. The voluntary offsetting of 100% of unavoidable emissions in 2005 via community-based agro-forestry in Uganda has made the company carbon neutral.

Innovation in plastics, a bête noire for many environmentalists, should be shouted from the rooftops. There is now a corn-based plastic called PLA which is 100% compostable. Furthermore, the packaging industry continues to innovate in developing packaging material which is lighter and less harmful to the environment.

For example, GlassRite Food, a new project funded by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), is currently inviting drink manufacturers to take part in a series of trials of lightweight glass containers. If successful, the project could save 65,000 tonnes of glass and 48,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by 2009 - the equivalent of taking 28,000 cars off the road.

Ethical trading should also grab the headlines as Fairtrade fortnight looms (26 February to 11 March). How many consumers are aware that the juice brand Fruit Passion was an original Fairtrade product in the UK? Fruit Passion has now introduced one-shot packaging for its 100% fruit juice, a handy-sized 200ml user-friendly carton. The decision to re-package was also supported by a recent survey conducted by the brand which revealed that 41% of consumers regard 'fairtrade' as the ethical purchasing choice to which they are most committed.

Arguably one of the most contentious issues is that of children's health and childhood obesity. The BSDA should be bringing to everyone's attention the strides its members have made in developing and promoting healthy drinks for children, as well as the association's involvement in hydration campaigns and liaison with the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) on advertising, vending in schools and GDA (guideline daily amount) labelling.

The BSDA is an industry association which can chart its origins back to the 1880s. It has knowledge and experience, and taking a more proactive stance with the media can only enhance its effectiveness at looking after the interests of soft drinks producers.