Fizzy drink brands need not fear

In a surprising new twist a study has found that consuming too many soft drinks can be bad for your health.

Camille Alarcon

The report from researchers in Israel was so ground breaking that it even made the front page of the Daily Express.

Yes, I’m sure there are still consumers out there living under a rock and not aware that too much Coke and Pepsi is not good for your daily diet.

On an altogether serious note, perhaps the most surprising aspect of the report is the health risks also being associated to regularly drinking fresh fruit juice.

Researchers at the Ziv Liver unit in Haifa, Israel have found that people who consumed a litre of fizzy drinks and fresh fruit juices every day are five times more likely to develop fatty liver disease.

The findings published in the Journal of Hepatology pointed out that long-term consumption could result in liver failure and the potential need for a transplant.

Industry body, the British Soft Drinks Association was today (August 12) quick to hit back in a statement claiming the report had been based on a very small sample size of 90 people and “doesn’t show any causal relationship between soft drinks consumption and liver damage”.

But with the nationals going to town with the story, the question is, do such findings still have any impact on consumers’ purchasing habits?

In particular, what will this do to brands such as PepsiCo’s Tropicana which trades on its juicy freshness?

Andrew Mulholland, Futurebrand client services director, says that while brands will need to take the findings seriously, they should avoid making any “knee jerk reactions”.

“There is an element of the consumer needing to take on board the issue of moderation. It’s that old adage of ‘everything in moderation’ and brands are already addressing that through portion control, with different sized cartons and bottles,” he says.

Industry observers have previously said that consumers are now taking a more educated approach to their daily diet. Many know high-sugar soft drinks are a ‘sometimes’ treat, or are instead turning to low sugar and low calorie alternatives.

This is supported by Nielsen data which shows the cola category enjoyed a 4% increase in value and a 3% increase in volume in the take home market last year. It also saw growth in the grocery multiples.

Associate director at branding consultancy Added Value, Tamsin Flint, says there is an enormous emotional connection among consumers and soft drinks that will never cease.

“Soft drink companies including Pepsi and Coke are already answering to consumer needs by providing an extensive range of drinks. Both are also developing water brands as part of this,” she says.

Perhaps then the surprise winners out of this fizzy drink report could be the bottled water brands which are continuing to struggle in sales.

According to the BSDA 2009 UK Soft Drinks Report, last year bottled water suffered a decline for the second year running, 5.5% down on 2007 volumes. It is also forecasting that 2009 will bring even more bad news.

So could we soon see a rush of press and outdoor ads from the likes of Evian, Buxton and Volvic? Or perhaps from industry body the Natural Hydration Council? Why not, it could only do them more good than harm. Because unlike fizzy drinks, right now they need all the help they can get.

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