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Soda Sales Fizzle in 1999, With More
Consumers Opting for Water

By Skip Wollenberg   Associated Press
NEW YORK — Carbonated soft drink sales volume slowed dramatically in 1999, and analysts blamed the nearly flat performance on rising prices and the popularity of alternative beverages like bottled water.

Colas, led by Coca-Cola Classic and Pepsi-Cola, continued to account for the majority of sales in the $58 billion U.S. soda market, but they lost market share to Mountain Dew, Sprite and Dr Pepper, according to two separate reports Friday.

Sales volume rose 0.5 percent last year, according to the annual Beverage Digest/Maxwell report. That was well below the 3 percent growth in 1998 and was the slowest in at least 15 years, according to Beverage Digest publisher John Sicher.

But he said price hikes last year helped push up the dollar value of retail sales by 3 percent to $57.9 billion from $56.3 billion a year earlier, when revenue rose 2.9 percent.

Separately, Beverage Marketing Corp. estimated 1999 volume growth at 0.6 percent, down from 3.4 percent in 1998. Spokesman Gary Hemphill said he could find no slower annual growth rate in records going back to 1980. It made no retail sales estimate.

Michael Bellas, chairman of Beverage Marketing, said the retail price hikes in 1999 held down purchases of sodas.He said average consumption fell for the first time in at least 30 years, edging down 0.2 gallon to 55.9 gallons for every man, woman and child in the country.

He said fast growth in bottled water also hurt carbonated soft drink sales. Water sales were up 12 percent in 1999 led by a 35 percent jump in water sold in single-serve bottles, Beverage Marketing estimated.

Coca-Cola Classic was the best selling soft drink brand in 1999 with 20.3 percent of the market, down from 20.6 percent in 1998, according to Beverage Digest/Maxwell.

Pepsi-Cola stayed in second place at 13.8 percent, down from 14.2 percent a year earlier. Diet Coke was third at 8.5 percent versus 8.6 percent in 1998.

But Mountain Dew's share rose to 7.1 percent from 6.7 percent. Sprite finished fifth at 6.8 percent and Dr Pepper was sixth at 6.3 percent — each up 0.2 percentage point from a year earlier.

Rounding out the Top 10 brands were Diet Pepsi at 5.1 percent, 7Up at 2.1 percent, Caffeine-Free Diet Coke at 1.8 percent and Barq's root beer at 1.1 percent.

The Beverage Marketing figures were similar except that it listed Minute Maid in 10th place at 1.3 percent of the market.

Pepsi One, the one-calorie brand Pepsi-Cola introduced in late 1998, finished out of the Top 10 in both reports with about 0.8 percent of the market.

Among the soft drink companies, Coca-Cola Co. stayed on top at 44.1 percent of the market, down 0.4 percentage point from a year earlier, Beverage Digest/Maxwell said.

Pepsi-Cola Co. held second at 31.4 percent of the market, unchanged from the previous year. Cadbury Schweppes's Dr Pepper/Seven Up unit was third at 14.7 percent, up 0.5 percentage point.

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