Health concerns dominate Australian beverage boom

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soft drink, Nutrition

Despite a sharp increase in beverage consumption amongst
Australians over the last decade, sales of sugar-sweetened
carbonated soft drinks have fallen "dramatically",
according to a national trade association in the country.

Pointing to a new study by the University of Wollongong, the Australian Beverage Council says that a 13 per cent increase in beverage sales within the country in the decade to 2006 is a result of consumers switching to diet soft drinks and waters due to health concerns. The independent findings by the National Centre of Excellence in Functional Foods, funded by the Australian Beverage Council, suggest that drinks makers may be successfully adapting to growing consumer concerns over health. Obesity is one major area of concern for the industry. Growing international concern over obesity linked particularly by some research to high sugar foods and beverages, is requiring manufacturers across the industry to develop products that can meet dietary requirements, or face a consumer backlash. Tony Gentile, chief executive of the Australian Beverage Council said the study's conclusions have not surprised the industry, which he claims has long been working towards providing healthier alternatives to the consumer. "We have known for a while now that Australian habits have been changing for the better,"​ he stated. "It's largely due to the industry's commitment to assist governments and the community to improve choice, education and awareness of health and well being amongst Australians."​ Gentile says that the country's soft drinks manufacturers have been actively targeting this market, both through product design and promotional, to ensure "The industry has increased the number of new beverage options with low or no-calorie content and light versions of existing beverages,"​ he said. "We've also increased the choice and availability of individual packaging sizes, and labelling initiatives to help Australians make an informed choice."​ In another attempt at tapping into growing health concerns, the beverage council said it had cut out advertising or marketing of its products to children under 12. Despite these marketing aims, the research found that 1.4bn litres of carbonated beverages were consumed last year alone, with 30 per cent of the segment being consumed by young families. A group of health organisations including by Diabetes Australia and the Cancer Council of Victoria, remained critical of this aspect of the findings though. The Obesity Policy Coalition says that industry should be working to ensure that young families are cutting down on consumption of carbonated beverages altogether.

Related topics: Markets, Oceania, Asian tastes, Beverages

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