Per Caps, Perhaps?

I’m a stat man, always will be. I like to peruse them as a source of reference for where we’ve been and where we’re going. Every day we are inundated with numbers for substantiation, justification and the like. We show consumer trends, measure media, check the pulse of voters, shoppers and investors.

The GDP is a key measurement of the health of our economy. The world revolves around the comings and goings of the Dollar, the Euro, the Yen. Stock markets around the world are the ultimate arbiters of the state of our success or failure.

As a sports nut, I’m heavily invested in ERA, RBI, PPG, MPH, saves, wins and losses. I consume batting average, pitching charts, passing and running stats on a daily basis.

Numbers give us a measurement of changes, trends, growth and slippage. So, I decided to look at them to determine where the beverage industry has been and where it might be going. We have many factors to look at, but I’ve always felt that Per Caps (annual gallon consumption per capita) give the best perspective.

I’ve been in the industry for 20 years now and throughout my time I’ve always looked to these Per Caps. Fortunately, Beverage Marketing Corp. has chronicled this valuable data over the time frame I’ve been involved.

Those numbers show how the industry has shifted over the years. When I first entered the marketplace, CSD’s were king. Sitting on their lofty perch around the mid 50’s, no other category came close.  Ten years into my run, in 2001, CSD’s weighed in at 53, with beer and milk around 22, and bottled water and coffee at 18, juices at 14 and tea at 10. Sports drinks would garner a little over 2 and energy drinks were barely measureable. The obtuse “all others” comprised another 27.

We like to think that we’ve changed so much, with all the new entries in the beverage arena. Yet, as we look over the trends during this timeframe, in reality, it’s not all that different. The shift has been the tremendous erosion of CSD’s. From 2001 to 2011, the category dropped 9 per caps. That’s a lot of soda taken off the table. The main beneficiary has been bottled water, which has gone from 18 to 29. Fifteen years ago, I was extolling the importance and growth of water. It’s nice to see I’m right occasionally.

The other measurements from 2001 to 2011 show somewhat minimal shifts. With all the hoopla and excitement of sports drinks, the change is from mid 2’s to mid 4’s. Not all that much to write home about. Energy is still only in the mid 1’s. I was surprised by that. Still, you’re talking billions in sales. Beer and milk dropped 2 gallons, while coffee and tea remain the same.  “All others” moved up one tick.

We all look at the industry as one that re-invents itself and has seismic shifts. That perception is greater than the reality. The new drinks abound, but the business really hasn’t deviated from its core. Consumers just have so much capacity in their bellies. Over the years, the consumption level remains 192 per caps. That’s a lot to digest.