Nielsen Numbers Show Significant Drop in Diet CSD Sales

While overall sales of carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) remain weak, plummeting sales of diet CSDs represented perhaps the most intriguing revelation from a rather gloomy Wells Fargo Securities report covering Nielsen xAOC (expanded all outlets combined) sales data over a four-week period ending on Aug. 13. The report, authored by Bonnie Herzog, Managing Director, Beverage, Tobacco & Convenience Store Research Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, also pointed to slumping sales in ready-to-drink tea and energy drinks, a surprising result considering good weather and improved economic conditions in recent months.

Stating that “overall CSDs continue to be weighed down by the Diet category,” Herzog reported that volume sales of diet soda tumbled by 6.9 percent. The sub-category dragged the overall CSD category to a volume decline of 4.2 percent and sales decline of 3.8 percent. Meanwhile, teas sales fell by 2.9 percent, while energy drinks — which had for years been on a torrid pace — saw sales drop by 0.2 percent.

Although The Coca-Cola Co., Inc. saw total sales decline by 3.4 percent, and sales of its CSDs fall by 2.5 percent, the company gained share in both regular and diet CSD categories. However, Coke took a significant hit in sales of its sports drinks which fell by 12.1 percent, the worst drop that the cola giant has taken in over a year in the category. Nevertheless, Herzog expressed optimism for the company, saying that “we are hopeful that the recent initiatives the company is undertaking, particularly with Diets, will start to be reflected in the results.”

PepsiCo also saw weak returns from its CSD products as total soda sales fell by 5.7 percent, while volume sales declined by 6.1 percent. Sales of Pepsi’s diet CSDs represented a significant issue for the company, plummeting by 9.5 percent in the four-week period. One bright spot for Pepsi, however, is in sales of its Gatorade brand which rose by 5.3 percent in sales and added a 5.3 percent share of the sports drinks category.

Despite a positive outlook at the launch of its ten-calorie drinks, Dr Pepper Snapple’s TEN platform saw dramatically weaker sales in recent weeks. Overall, DPS saw sales of its diet brands fall by 4.9 percent, despite a 2.3 percent increase in units sold on promotion. Herzog expressed pessimism about the ten-calorie line, noting that “Although we conceptually believe in DPS’s TEN platform, we are becoming increasingly concerned about the continued underperformance of TEN. While this platform does offer an alternative to traditional Diets, we fear the failure to sufficiently differentiate it from this struggling category is weighing on results.”