Low-calorie bubbles up

Carbonated beverage sales may be flat, but new low- and no-calorie introductions, and a bigger marketing spend, could mean the category may have some sparkle left.

PepsiCo is poised to roll out Pepsi Next, a soft drink with 60% less sugar than original Pepsi, designed to appeal to consumers who want the taste of a full-calorie cola but with reduced sugar. The company also is putting hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising behind its carbonated beverage brands in an effort to grab share from archrival Coca-Cola.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group vigorously has been promoting Dr Pepper Ten, a low-calorie soft drink targeted to men who are dissatisfied with the taste and image of diet drinks. The company also is testing 7 Up Ten, Sunkist Ten, A&W Ten, Canada Dry Ten and RC Ten in some markets.

In the no-calorie segment, Coke Zero, which also has been targeted to men, has had double-digit growth, and sales of Pepsi Max also have been strong.

John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, said the no- and low-calorie beverages could represent a new generation of soft drinks that may fuel the category after years of sluggish growth. Sicher believed that apart from low-calorie soft drinks that will adapt to consumers’ needs, there still are pockets of strength in the current market, such as the Mountain Dew brand.

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