Low Calorie Soft Drinks with Aspartame: Building a Healthy Market
August 2015: The British Soft Drinks Association, in its annual review of the market issued in June, showed that 57% of soft drinks consumed in the UK are now no or low calorie products. The BSDA's definition of the market includes bottled water, but nevertheless, 49% of carbonates and 74% of dilutables are now no or low calorie products.
While the British soft drinks industry appears to be in the vanguard of delivering great-tasting low calorie soft drinks to consumers, the low calorie sector also enjoys a growing share in many other countries. According to Canadean, low calorie products account for over a third of carbonates consumption in Belgium (37%), Finland (37%) and Norway (40%), and over a quarter in Austria (29%), Denmark (30%), the Netherlands (32%), and Switzerland (27%). In Germany, Europe's largest market for carbonated soft drinks, low calorie share has grown from 17% in 2007 to 23%. Taking Western Europe as a whole, the share of low calorie products in the carbonates sector is 26%.
Per capita consumption of low calorie carbonates in Western Europe stands at 18.3 litres per annum. That means that, on average, everyone is choosing a low calorie carbonate once a week. That's a saving in the order of 7,000 Calories per person per year. Of course, many people are choosing a low calorie soft drink every day. If that replaces a sugar-sweetened product, the swap will, over the course of a year, lead to saving the number of calories that would otherwise convert into 5 kilograms of bodyweight.
Recent consumer research (conducted by Populus in the UK and France and by the Link Institute in Germany) confirms that people's top-of-mind concerns about the ingredients in their food and drink relate to sugar, fat and, in third place, salt. It should not be surprising, therefore, that good tasting low calorie alternatives continue to find favour with consumers.
The availability of aspartame, which of all the low calorie sweeteners tastes most like sugar, is an important factor. It enables soft drinks producers to offer consumers products that they really like and will purchase frequently. In so doing, aspartame helps food and drink manufacturers to meet commitments to help improve public health by providing choices that genuinely help people to manage their weight.
The key role that aspartame plays in delivering the taste that people like was confirmed when ASDA, the Walmart subsidiary in the UK, chose in 2008 to reformulate its own-label cola without aspartame. Sales fell every year for the next four years, and turnover slumped by a third.
Similarly, in France, Système U removed aspartame from its low calorie colas in mid-2012. Sales in 2013 were down 16%.
Whether for consumers or for food and drink companies, aspartame is the best low calorie sweetener choice.