Diet Coke deposes Pepsi as No.2 soda in US

Diet soda sales make up more than 30 per cent of the entire beverage market in the US. — Reuters file picDiet soda sales make up more than 30 per cent of the entire beverage market in the US. — Reuters file picCHICAGO, March 18 — Diet Coke overtook Pepsi-Cola in 2010 as the No. 2 soda in the US behind Coca-Cola, marking the first time a diet soda has ever risen to such prominence.

Diet Coke moved into second place even though its volume fell one per cent last year, because Pepsi-Cola’s volume dropped 4.8 per cent, according to Beverage Digest, which tracks the industry’s sales.

Shares of Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc were each up more than one per cent yesterday, in line with the wider stock market.

Still, Credit Suisse analyst Carlos Laboy said he was “worried about the morale implications for PepsiCo’s beverage people of having the company’s namesake brand and its top beverage brand dropped to a tertiary spot.” Laboy downgraded shares of PepsiCo last month to “neutral.”

The volume of two other diet brands, Diet Mt Dew and Diet Dr Pepper, each rose more than five per cent last year, while Diet Pepsi’s volume fell 5.2 per cent.

Beverage Digest estimates that diet sodas overall gained market share in 2010 and now make up more than 30 per cent of the entire category.

Overall US sales volume of carbonated soft drinks fell 0.5 per cent to 9.36 billion cases in 2010, the industry publication said, less than the 2.1 per cent decline in 2009.

Coca-Cola, the market leader, saw its overall volume fall 0.5 per cent last year, while volume for No. 2 PepsiCo fell 2.6 per cent. Volume for No. 3 player Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc rose 1.4 per cent.

After decades of growth, US sales of carbonated soft drinks have fallen every year since 2005, due in part to a growing health consciousness. Given the declines, the category’s volume is back down to about where it was in 1996, the publication said.

Coke shares were up 90 cents (RM2.75), or 1.5 per cent, at US$62.50 on the New York Stock Exchange, while Pepsi shares were up 80 cents, or 1.3 per cent, at US$63.11. Dr Pepper shares were up 65 cents, or 1.8 per cent, at US$37.39. — Reuters


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