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In recent years, the carbonates industry has undergone a transformation in its product portfolio driven by evolving consumer preferences, changing regulatory measures such as sugar taxes, and increased concerns about health. This transformation trend has been quite visible since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as consumers became more conscious about the impact of sugary drinks on their health. In response to these shifts, companies are investing more in developing new products, with a focus on developing low- or no-calorie carbonates by using sweeteners as alternatives to traditional sugar, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Guida Simoes, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “One of the prominent categories in the carbonates space is diet sodas, which are popular drinks around the world, especially among people who want to reduce their sugar or calorie intake. Almost every popular sugary drink on the market has a “light” or “diet” version – Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, Sprite Zero, etc. Despite their appeal to calorie-conscious people, the effects of diet drinks and artificial sweeteners on health are controversial.”

In response to the evolving trend, major players are constantly innovating and creating different flavors for zero-calorie drinks to attract more consumers. For example, in April 2023, Coca-Cola announced a zero-sugar variant that offers “bold and delicate” flavour profiles during the launch of the Coca-Cola Movement in Spain. Stated to be a collaboration between “Coca-Cola – a beverage company and Rosalia – a Spanish singer”, this launch aims to attract more consumers with healthier products, with sugar-free and calorie-free products in mind.

In 2023, in Western European countries, the market share of low/no-calorie drinks is approximately 34 %, with the UK leading at 54 %, followed by Spain at 45 %, Italy at 18 %, France at 25 %, and Germany at 26 %*. This diversification highlights the varied consumer preferences and market dynamics within the region.

Simoes continues: “Moreover, the interesting correlation between the percentages in the market share of low/no-calorie drinks and the levels of health concerns, as shown by the GlobalData 2023 Q4 consumer survey, adds depth to our understanding. Countries with higher market shares, notably the UK and Spain, demonstrate a higher percentage of consumers 38 % and 42 %, respectively, expressing extreme or significant concern about their health. This showcases a relationship between consumer behavior and evolving product preferences, suggesting that health-conscious individuals are more inclined towards adopting low/no-calorie beverages.”

Simoes concludes: “Tailoring approaches to cater to health-conscious demographics, particularly in markets like the UK and Spain, presents a promising opportunity for growth. For businesses, they can adjust their marketing strategies and innovate products that appeal to consumers who are mindful of their health.”

*GlobalData Consumer Intelligence Center – Market Analyzers, accessed in December 2023
**GlobalData Q4 2023 Consumer Survey, published in December 2023, was conducted with 9068 respondents in Europe