NEW YORK (AP) - The soda wars appear to be shifting at least in part to another corner of the beverage industry - sparkling, flavored waters.
NEW YORK (AP) — The soda wars appear to be shifting at least in part to another corner of the beverage industry — sparkling, flavored waters.
A report released Monday shows U.S. soda sales fell at an accelerated pace last year, extending a streak of declines that began in 2005. But Americans are apparently developing a taste for another type of sweet, carbonated beverage.
Last year, a small brand called Sparkling Ice saw sales more than double to $302.4 million from the previous year, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. That is still a tiny fraction of the broader soda industry but represents striking growth from 2009, when sales were just $2.7 million.
The drinks are labeled as "Naturally Flavored Sparkling Mountain Spring Water" and are positioned as a zero-calorie alternative to sodas and diet sodas.
"We're looking for that consumer who's been looking to leave carbonated soft drinks but finds water boring," said Kevin Klock, CEO of TalkingRain, the company based in Preston, Wash., that owns the brand.
Its success hasn't escaped the attention of Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc.
Coca-Cola introduced a line called Fruitwater last year that bears many resemblances to Sparkling Ice, including packaging in tall, clear bottles. A few months later, PepsiCo followed suit with Aquafina FlavorSplash, which also comes in a variety of fruity flavors and is made with artificial sweeteners. Like traditional diet sodas, all three are made with artificial sweeteners.
Exactly what differentiates them from soda isn't clear.
Theresa Eisenman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said the agency doesn't have a "standard of identity" for what defines a soda or a cola. But Klock of TalkingRain described Sparkling Ice as having a lighter taste than sodas, which he said are more syrupy.
Sparkling Ice was created in 1992, but the push to make it a national brand began in 2010, Klock said. He noted that the brand's fruity flavors have been popular because big soda makers failed to come out with new flavors over the years.
When asked if TalkingRain's goal was to eventually be acquired by a bigger company, Klock said the company is focused on its growth rather than an "exit strategy."
But he added: "If someone offered a billion dollars, we probably wouldn't say no."
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