What will soda become in 2020?

February 23, 2011

New health concerns about diet sodas, and public angst over sugary drinks, which many associate with obesity, could send the category into a major revamp.

What will the next generation of Pepsi drinkers, and people who smile with Cokes, be downing a few years from now? How will these beverage giants, and all the other soda manufacturers, bring their brands in line with mounting public health concerns being voiced today?

At The Lempert Report, we believe soda manufacturers have no choice but to conform if they want to achieve domestic growth. If they don’t make some changes, soda share could erode at the hands of alternatives—some of which likely haven’t reached the marketplace yet.

This category didn’t grow to around $19 billion by being insensitive to consumer demand. Soda companies are some of the most innovative, insightful, resourceful and reliable suppliers to the supermarket industry. All we’re saying is they need to come to grips with America’s emerging health mindset, and work to redefine their role in the weekly diet.

Why? When 61% of parents surveyed in Los Angeles support a ban of drinks with added sugar in schools because they associate them with obesity (Source: Los Angeles Times), retailers and CPG suppliers must listen.

When Dr. Steven Greenberg, a Harvard Medical School neurologist and vice chairman of the International Stroke Conference, finds higher risks for stroke and heart attack among people who drink diet soda every day vs. those who drink none (Source: The Associated Press), people take notice.  We’ll let the scientists and related parties debate the merits of individual studies. Our point is this announcement likely helps shift public perception away from this kind of beverage.

So what could soda become in the next decade?
Hint: It won’t be sold in bottles. We predict home kitchens will have built-in carbonated tanks, as part of unified soda-making systems with water purifiers. On installation your water is tested for PH balance, calcium, harness and other factors which could diminish flavor and effervescence. Households will be able to individually profile their beverages to suit their dietary, flavor and even the size and amount of bubble preferences. They could dial up a particular kind of sugar or sweetener in specific amounts, same with the flavor (that’s the syrup the beverage companies will sell at far lower margins than bottles afford them today). And they can keep it clear if they like, and avoid artificial colors.

People will have more control. They’ll lug less from the store. They’ll be kinder to the environment. And because they’ll be able to customize their drinks and possibly make them healthier, soda could become more central to more beverage occasions in the home.