Mayor Bloomberg’s push to outlaw over-sized sugary drinks in New York City didn’t succeed, but that and other efforts, including upcoming “soda tax” ballot measures in San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif., have kept the debate going about the health consequences associated with the drinks we consume, and helped fuel a shift toward healthy beverages.
Last month, the American Beverage Association and major soda companies joined with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in a voluntary effort to reduce beverage calories consumed by 20% by 2025. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group will invest in local and national initiatives, including making and marketing smaller-sized sodas, bottled water and new lower-calorie calorie drinks.
The measures come amid changing consumer habits. U.S. soda consumption has been falling since hitting a high in 1998 and calories from soda fell 23% from 2000 and 2013, according to Beverage Digest. Meanwhile, a new generation of soft drinks is growing up to quench the thirst of health-conscious consumers.
“Consumers in this day and age are looking at the labels of what they eat and drink and seeing what products are made from,” said Rachel Mansfield, spokeswoman for New Jersey-based beverage maker Bai Brands. “It is important for everyone to know what they are eating and especially drinking.”
Health and nutrition are key characteristics that a growing number of consumers is looking for when they pick a beverage. And the ideas of what makes a drink good-for-you have morphed in recent years, as old habits began to change and new beverage options came onto the market. Sales of bottled water have been on the rise since dipping 6.6% in 2009, according to Mintel. Bottled water sales were significantly boosted in the past year by a 32% jump in sales of sparkling, flavored and mineral waters, Beverage Industry reported.
Sales of orange juice, once seen as the epitome of a healthy breakfast beverage, have declined steadily in recent years. U.S. retail sales hit a 16-year low in the 12-month period ended Sept. 27, according to reports published Monday in the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets.
During the same period, a slew of new fruit-based beverages, many of which come with health and nutrition claims but less sugar and fewer calories than orange juice have come online. Sales of refrigerated juices and juice-based smoothies rose 16% in the year ended April 20, according to Information Resources Inc. One of the new, nutrition-focused beverages is Bai Brands’ Bai5, a line of fruit-flavored beverages made from the antioxidant-rich fruit that surrounds the coffee bean. Beverage industry veteran Ben Weiss launched the company five years ago, and today the 10 flavors of Bai5 are available at national retail chains including Target and Wal-Mart.
The company markets the drinks as antioxidant infusions, said Mansfield. Bai recently rolled out a line of carbonated drinks called Bai Bubbles. Both beverage lines from Bai are made with coffeefruit and sweetened with organic stevia instead of sugar.
“We target the millennial age group but our consumers range anywhere from children to adults. Our customers take a pride in their health and want to drink what is naturally good for them,” she said. “Bai Bubbles will appeal to a wider audience because there are so many people out there who still drink soda.”
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