Nielsen “All Channel” Data: Softening Sales Across Most Categories

nielsen-logoWells Fargo Securities highlighted slowing growth in the energy drink category in a new report detailing Nielsen xAOC (expanded all outlets combined) year-over-year sales data for the four-week period ending on August 13. While dollar sales growth was modest or in decline across most beverage categories, Wells Fargo noted energy’s soft performance, up just 3.3 percent in the measured timeframe.

Wells Fargo expressed particular concern about ongoing weakness in sales of Red Bull and Monster beverages. Nielsen data showed a 1.5 percent increase in dollar sales and 2.2 percent rise in volume sales of Red Bull drinks over the four-week period “as the brand laps product launches and subsequent removals of several Editions lines,” according to Wells Fargo. Meanwhile, Monster saw a 3.3 percent bump in dollar sales and a 0.3 decline in volume amid a 3.6 percent increase in pricing. Wells Fargo described Monster’s performance as “very soft” and “the lowest sales growth we have seen on its toughest lap from last year (11 percent) driven by volume declines.” Although Rockstar also experienced softening dollar sales, up 2.4 percent, PepsiCo-owned Kickstart continues to surge, with sales growing by 24.3 percent.

Despite the less than positive news for energy drinks, they are still outperforming carbonated soft drinks (CSD). Dollar sales of CSD were down 1.1 percent during the four-week period, flat over a 12-week timeframe and down 0.7 percent over 52 weeks. CSD pricing grew by 1.1 percent, while volume sales were down 2.2 percent. Diet soda continues to be a drag on the overall category: dollar sales declined by 4.6 percent and volume was off by 5.6 percent.

Among the largest CSD producers, the Coca-Cola Co. fared better (dollar sales down 0.3 percent, volume declined by 0.5 percent) than PepsiCo (down 2.2 percent in dollar sales and 4.2 percent in volume sales), while Dr Pepper Snapple Group was the only of the big three soda manufacturers to see a bump in volume sales, up 0.4 percent. DPS’ CSD products were down 0.5 percent in dollar sales.

In other beverage categories, sparkling flavored water (up 14.2 percent in dollars and 17.3 percent in volume) and RTD coffee (up 13.7 and 12.5) performed well during the period. National Beverage Corp., the maker of LaCroix, led the way for sparkling water with dollar sales up 73.7 percent in the timeframe. Nestle Holdings (up 20.8) and Polar Corp. (up 20.6 percent) also saw big gains in dollar sales of their carbonated water products.

It was more of a mixed bag within the RTD coffee category. Monster posted the best performance with dollar sales of its Java Monster products up 21.5 percent, while Starbucks/PepsiCo’s North American Coffee Partnership saw gains of 12.7 percent. Other producers, however, experienced significant declines: dollar sales of Coca-Cola, Campbell Soup Co. and Rockstar coffee drinks were down 8.7 percent, 46.1 percent and 77 percent, respectively.

Although RTD tea (up 2.4 percent in dollar sales) still bottled water (up 4.5 percent) and still flavored water (up 0.3 percent) all saw positive gains in the four-week period, the categories underperformed against recent 12-week and 52-week timeframes. Other categories of note include sports drinks (dollar sales up 7.6 percent), refrigerated juice drinks (down 0.9 percent) and shelf-stable juice (up 3.2 percent).