By Martinne Geller
March 25 (Reuters) - The decline in U.S. sales of carbonated soft drinks accelerated last year as more consumers reached for alternatives, according to a leading beverage industry newsletter.
Total sales volume fell 1.2 percent in 2012 to 9.17 billion cases, according to Beverage Digest. That compares with declines of 1 percent in 2011 and 0.5 percent in 2010.
“Carbonated soft drinks, while still the biggest category, are playing a declining role in Americans’ beverage consumption,” said John Sicher, Beverage Digest’s editor and publisher, in the newsletter.
Soda sales in the United States grew about 3 percent a year throughout most of the 1990s, but began to slow in 1999. Sales have been in decline since 2005.
Industry critics have pointed to the soda industry has contributing to the nation’s obesity epidemic. At the same time, the deep-pocketed industry has successfully beat back proposed taxes on soft drinks in several municipalities.
Earlier this month, a proposed ban on large-sized soft drinks in New York City was struck down, although the mayor’s office is appealing the ruling.
In 2012, soda volume would have fallen 1.7 percent, excluding fast-growing energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster Beverage Corp products, Beverage Digest said.
By company, Coca-Cola Co and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc each gained 0.1 percentage point of market share, while PepsiCo Inc’s share slipped by 0.4 percentage points.
The top three soda brands - Coke, Diet Coke and Pepsi-Cola - remained unchanged.
Including non-carbonated drinks such as teas, waters and sports drinks, overall bottled beverage sales rose 1 percent, according to Beverage Digest and Beverage Marketing Corp, a rival trade group.
Both groups cited strength of energy drinks and bottled water.