Solving Slumping Soft Drink Sales

Soft drink sales have been declining for more than a decade. Fortune Magazine, reporting data provided by Beverage Digest, quotes that the average American consumed 650 8-ounce servings of soda in 2015, the lowest number since 1985. Soda manufacturers can blame the shifting public perception of soft drinks for that steady decline. Americans are becoming more and more reluctant to consume the 10-or-so teaspoons of sugar that are routinely present in a 12-ounce serving of soda. That and other ingredients in soft drinks they perceive as unwholesome are driving consumers to reach for more healthful alternatives.

Industry professionals are also implicating coffee and the establishments famous for serving it as having a part in soft drinks’ waning popularity. As Business Insider reports, more people are replacing soft drinks with coffee drinks for their daily caffeine fixes.

Soda’s stigma became all the more salient last week when Philadelphia became the latest city, and the largest to date, to vote in a tax on sugary drinks in the name of public health. That milestone did what the New York City Council has tried and failed to do for years, and it’s likely that Oakland and San Francisco will follow fellow California city Berkley’s lead by voting on similar measures by the end of 2016.

Soda Switchups

Needless to say, soft drink manufacturers and the establishments that serve their products have their work cut out for them as they attempt to convince consumers that a glass of soda still fits in with their lifestyles. Coke’s modest attempt to kick the stigma of artificial sweeteners and advance itelf as a health-conscious brand came in the form of Coca-Cola Life, a cola formulated with a combination of sugar and stevia instead of corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.

Coke’s main competitor recently cut aspartame from its Diet Pepsi to help combat consumers’ negative perception of that particular sweetener, a move that doesn’t seem to have done much to improve the drink’s reputation with consumers. On the other hand, the company’s vitamin-fortified Kickstart Mountain Dew energy drink brand has been seeing annual sales topping $300 million, proof that innovation can pay off when you target consumers’ needs for functional food products.

Soda’s saving grace might come in the form of craft soda, thanks in part to millennials’ thirst for novelty and disdain for massive international brands. Millennials buy nearly a third more soft drinks than older generations, with many of them more willing to indulge in a sugary soda when doing so provides a new experience and when they know the drink is made with more wholesome, responsible ingredients.

Whether craft soda will become as ubiquitous as craft beer is yet to be seen, but both of the major national players have entered the market recently. In 2014, Coke acquired Hansen’s and Blue Sky Sodas, both decades-old brands, and is marketing them each as craft-style alternatives to mainstream sodas. Pepsi entered the market with its Stubborn Soda brand, a line that’s made with fair-trade certified cane sugar instead of corn syrup and flavored with ingredients like tarragon and hibiscus.

Tips for Refreshing Your Profit

If your soda sales have gone flat, here are some tips to help boost your nonalcoholic beverage sales that don’t rely on fizzy fountain drinks.

Work in Water

Water is the obvious alternative to sugary drinks, and while some diners are content with drinking tap water with a slice of lemon, you may be letting potential sales pass by if that’s your only offering. Consider selling bottled water to guests as a premium alternative. Keep a couple of types of sparkling water on hand for customers who are typically willing to pay considerably more for an effervescent drink without the empty calories.

Don’t Forget Frozen

Food product supplier U.S. Foods reports that frozen nonalcoholic drink sales are growing, but in order for operators to successfully tap the market, they’ll need to highlight each drink’s functionality, emphasizing its healthful attributes and additions like herbs, vitamins, and minerals.

Go Back to Basics

Gourmet lemonade and specialty iced tea topped the list of nonalcoholic beverage trends of 2015 released by Nation’s Restaurant News. Put a new twist on those old standbys with creative flavors to build a drink menu that will attract customers looking for an alternative to sugary sodas. As an added bonus, your lemonade base can also make a flavorful addition to beverages on your cocktail menu.

Tanner West
Tanner West

A dedicated festival-goer, Tanner West has seen more bands perform live in the middle of hay fields and city parks than most people have probably heard of. Raised on beans and taters, he recently renovated a home and three vintage sheds in the back woods of East Tennessee that serves as a quiet retreat for reading and ready base for hiking and camping trips. Despite being able to craft 500-word descriptions of restaurant equipment, Tanner is a man of few words who described the best meal he ever ate in one word: Coffee.

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