The U.S. beverage market grew at a noteworthy rate in 2014 after having been essentially flat in 2013, according to yearend data from Beverage Marketing Corp. Its growth was the strongest seen in several years. Beverage-specific factors, such as the vibrancy of the already-large bottled-water segment, as well as more general ones, such as the continuing economic recovery, contributed to the overall increase in liquid-refreshment beverage volume, which reached 30.9 billion gallons in 2014.
Subcategory Ups and Downs
Bottled water had a remarkable year. As a healthy, natural, zero-calorie refreshment beverage, bottled water was in the consumer sweet spot. Pricing continued to be aggressive in the category, which also aided its upward movement. Its growth actually accelerated, which is rare for a category its size. Volume grew by 7.3%.
Niche categories continued to outperform most traditional mass-market categories. Premium beverages such as energy drinks and, especially, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee advanced particularly forcefully during 2014. Larger, more established segments such as carbonated soft drinks and fruit beverages failed to grow once again.
RTD coffee moved forward faster than all other segments with a 10.7% volume increase in 2014. Nonetheless, the segment accounted for a tiny share of total liquid-refreshment beverage volume. Indeed, it was the smallest, trailing even value-added water, which registered the largest decline of any liquid refreshment beverage type other than fruit beverages or carbonated soft drinks. Energy drinks advanced by 6.4%, but also remained fairly modest in size. Not surprisingly, no energy drink, RTD coffee or value-added water brand ranked among the leading trademarks by volume.
Sports beverages, on the other hand, had Gatorade (including all brand variations) as the sixth-largest beverage trademark during the year. The sports beverage segment exceeded 1 billion gallons for the first time in 2011 and topped 1.4 billion gallons in 2014.
Carbonated soft drinks remained by far the biggest liquid refreshment beverage category, but they continued to lose both volume and market share. Volume slipped by 1% from 12.9 billion gallons in 2013 to less than 12.8 billion gallons in 2014, which lowered their market share from slightly less than 43% to just above 41%. Even so, the category declined more slowly than in previous years and some soda trademarks, such as Sprite and certain varieties of Mountain Dew, did achieve growth. Moreover, carbonated soft drinks accounted for five of the 10 biggest beverage trademarks during 2014, with Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola retaining their usual first and second positions.
Bottled water had four entries among the leading trademarks in 2014, up from three the year before. All four outperformed the liquid-refreshment beverage category as a whole. Indeed, they were the four fastest-moving brands in the bunch.
Four companies accounted for all of the leading refreshment beverage trademarks. PepsiCo had four brands. Coca-Cola Co. had three, while Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) had two and Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) had one. Unlike in preceding years, no fruit beverage brand ranked among the top 10.
“Beverages rebounded in 2014,” said Michael C. Bellas, chairman and CEO, Beverage Marketing Corp. “Products that connect with what contemporary consumers want, like bottled water and functional offerings, added buoyancy to the ever-changing market.”
New York-based Beverage Marketing Corp. is the leading consulting, research and advisory services firm dedicated to the global beverage industry.