CHICAGO U.S. carbonated soft drink volume fell 3 percent in 2008, the biggest drop since at least the early 1980s, according to industry publication Beverage Digest, as Americans cut back on small treats during the recession.
Volume fell to about 9.6 billion cases, the lowest level since 1997. Last year's decline follows a 2.3 percent dip in 2007. Volume fell less than 1 percent in 2006 and 2005 after rising for several years.
Energy drinks and some diet drinks sold well while most brands, including regular Coke and Pepsi, saw volume fall.
The three largest U.S. soft drink makers -- Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple -- saw their carbonated soft drink volume decline in 2008, according to the Beverage Digest report, which tracks sales of carbonated soft drinks and energy drinks.
Volume fell 3.1 percent at Coca-Cola, 4 percent at PepsiCo and 1.3 percent at Dr Pepper Snapple. Including drinks such as bottled water and sports drinks, volume fell 1.6 percent at Coca-Cola, 5 percent at PepsiCo and 2.3 percent at Dr Pepper Snapple. Those figures do not include juice or juice drinks.
Smaller companies that make lower-prices sodas and popular energy drinks saw their volume rise. National Beverage Corp, Hansen Natural, Red Bull and Big Red were the only four companies in the Beverage Digest ranking of the top 10 companies that posted higher volume in 2008.
Coke, the No. 1 soft drink, saw volume decline 2.5 percent, while rival Pepsi-Cola's volume plunged 6.5 percent. Diet Coke's volume fell 3 percent and Diet Pepsi's volume dropped 7.5 percent.
Despite the lower volume, the retail dollar value of the U.S. carbonated soft-drink business rose about 1 percent to $72.7 billion, as consumers continued to buy energy drinks, which command premium prices, and manufacturers raised prices.
Brands that posted gains included PepsiCo's Diet Mt. Dew, whose volume grew 4 percent, and Diet Dr Pepper, whose volume rose 2.3 percent. Smaller brands posted more rapid growth, with Coke Zero jumping 36 percent and Pepsi Max up 25 percent.
Beverage Digest estimated per capita consumption fell to about 760 eight-ounce servings, down from about 790 eight-ounce servings in 2007. While consumption has fallen over the past few years, the United States still has the highest per capita consumption of soft drinks in the world, the publication said.
In afternoon trading shares of Coca-Cola were down 3.1 percent, shares of PepsiCo were down 1.8 percent and shares of Dr Pepper Snapple were down 2.6 percent.
(Reporting by Jessica Wohl. editing by Gunna Dickson)