Changing Consumer Beverage Tastes

As a debate rages about sugar sweetened beverages, consumer beverage tastes are changing in a seemingly healthier direction. Consumption of soda is down overall, with full sugar versions suffering the most. These trends may explain explain why the Coca-Cola Company wants a place at the table for health and obesity policy.

Derek Thompson paints a clear picture in a thorough article published by the Atlantic. The title says it all — “How America Drinks: Water and Wine Surge, Cheap Beer and Soda Crash.” He goes on to say, “It’s not the end of soda — yet. But soft drinks have peaked, while bottled water, energy drinks, and a considerable amount of premium alcohol are taking their place.”

Two major shifts in consumer preferences are responsible for the trends. Consumer thirst for healthier alternatives to soft drinks is driving growth in bottled water. Consumers are also trading up to wine and spirits from mass market beers.

You can find more evidence of what’s driving Coca-Cola to explore new strategies in the business press. MSN Money published a story yesterday titled “Coke and Pepsi May Be Losing Their Fizz.” And the Wall Street Journal asks “Is This the End of the Soft Drink Era?” The underlying problem for the industry, says MSN Money, is that baby boomers are becoming more concerned about the health effects of sugar and artificial sweeteners.

So the difficult debate about regulatory solutions to the contribution of sugar sweetened beverages to obesity rates may be simplified by changing consumer sentiment.

Click here to read Thompson’s article in the Atlantic, here to read the story at MSN Money, and here to read the WSJ article.