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U.S. consumers’ taste for non-alcoholic beverages is shifting: Mintel

According to a recent study from Mintel, a Chicago-based market research firm, consumers’ drinking habits in the non-alcoholic beverage segment is seeing some interesting shifts.

In the study, called America’s Changing Drinking Habits, Mintel says it analyzed the changes in consumer drinking habits according to several specific factors, one being health and wellness.

Consumers shifting away from soda

What Mintel found was that while soda was the most popular beverage in the 1990s, consumers are now opting for bottled water, energy drinks and sports drinks instead.

Mintel estimates that during 2003 to 2008, the regular soda segment lost 15.6 million consumers age 18 and over, while the diet soda segment only added half as many or 7.8 million adult consumers.

A question of health

One major factor causing consumers to shift away from soda is due to its role in their growing waistlines.

Mintel’s findings show that 34 per cent of all adults who purchase beverages have started to drink more water and less carbonated beverages to manage weight or other health conditions such as diabetes, compared to 2006.

Bottled water

The bottled water segment added more than 24 million new consumers during 2003 to 2008, the highest number among all non-alcoholic beverage segments.

What’s happened is consumers are replacing their high-calorie beverages with this no or low-calorie choice. And their interest in this category is also holding strong because manufacturers continue to offer diversification.

The youth market

Among young adults, energy drinks have brought about a paradigm shift in their drinking habits. Mintel has found that this group is exiting the soda category and consuming more energy beverages.

During 2003 to 2008 energy drink users age 18 and above nearly doubled to reach 34.5 million in 2008.

As for sports drinks, this category has added a little more than 11 million consumers during 2003 to 2008. The sports drink segment has kept consumers interested through targeting non-core athletes and low-calorie innovations.

Artificial ingredients

Mintel also found that consumers are less likely to choose beverages with artificial ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and additives and preservatives.

In fact, 16 per cent of all non-alcoholic beverage purchasing adults age 18 and over say that compared to two years ago, they are more of the opinion that high-fructose corn syrup poses a risk.

Mintel expects that as consumers move away from artificial ingredients, “naturally sweetened will become a differentiating factor in beverages and one that consumers would not mind paying more for.”