UPDATE 1-U.S. soda sales fall to lowest since 1995 -report

(Adds details on sales by brand, byline)

NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - Americans cut back on drinking carbonated soft drinks again last year with soda sales reaching their lowest levels in nearly two decades, according to a leading beverage industry newsletter.

Total sales volume fell 3 percent in 2013 to 8.9 billion cases, the ninth straight year of decline and the lowest since 1995, according to Beverage Digest. Soda sales fell 1.2 percent in 2012 and 1 percent in 2011. Each case is equal to 192 liquid ounces.

Soda sales in the United States grew throughout most of the 1990s, before beginning to slow in 1999. Sales have been in decline since 2005. (Graphic:

Industry critics have pointed to the soda industry as contributing to the U.S. obesity epidemic, and growing health concerns among consumers have hurt sales, experts said.

“The beverage industry is getting more and more challenging in the U.S. The obesity and health and wellness headwinds are not letting up,” Beverage Digest Editor John Sicher said, adding that sales of diet sodas have been hit by worries about the healthfulness of artificial sweeteners.

By company, Coca-Cola Co’s share of the U.S. soft drinks market rose 0.4 percentage points, while PepsiCo Inc’s market share shrank by the same percentage, slammed by a 4.4 percent decline in its soda sales volume, or twice the rate of Coca-Cola’s drop, according to Beverage Digest.

Adding to the industry’s concerns, the growth of bottled water sales has slowed.

One Coca-Cola brand, Coke Zero, edged into the top 10 soda brands, replacing Diet Dr. Pepper. Of all the top soda brands, only Sprite saw sales gains last year. Coke and Diet Coke were the 2 top selling brands last year, followed by Pepsi and PepsiCo’s Mt. Dew.

If not for the fast-growing sales of energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster Beverage Corp products, soda volume would have fallen 3.3 percent last year. Monster’s sales volume was up 7.7 percent in 2013. (Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)