The last few months have seen a flurry of activity from many of the UK's iconic fizzy drinks brands as they unveil new healthier images in a bid to grab a bigger share of an increasingly health-conscious market.
Tango, 7up and Fanta have all launched new lower-sugar variants off the back of Coke Zero's phenomenally successful launch earlier last year.
The launch of 7up Free was supported by a £1.8m advertising campaign targeted at women aged 35-44. Meanwhile, word on the street is that drinks giant PepsiCo is gearing up for the launch of a new sugar-free cola product this autumn.
And it's not just low-sugar products that the UK's increasingly health-savvy consumers are demanding.
"Consumers also want products that have no hidden additives and that are 100% natural," says Andy Thompson, brand manager for Appletiser. "Results from a survey conducted among UK adults showed that 70% of respondents stated that it was either fairly or very important that a soft drink is healthy - and has no added sugars, preservatives or colourants."
Responding to this trend, Tango has pledged to remove all artificial colours and flavours from its drinks, although brand owner Britvic stresses it will retain its familiar fruity flavour. The brand will also get a new pack design and a new bottle shape to give it a more contemporary image.
Rubicon also entered the fizzy fray in April with the launch of a new range of sparkling fruit drinks made with exotic fruit juices and spring water. The drinks, says Barbara Down, head of marketing for Rubicon, are designed to "answer the needs of the increasingly discerning health conscious consumer who will not compromise on taste."
The consumer trend to follow healthier lifestyles has also been a major influence on the development of carbonated soft drinks for kids,
particularly since the recent introduction of a ban by Ofcom on TV advertising of so-called HFSS (high fat, salt, sugar) products.
Despite the fact that in children's drinks the still sector continues to outperform its carbonated counterpart, there have been a number of new developments in the carbonates for kids category.
A key part of Vimto's brand activity this year has been to focus on developing its range of no-added sugar variants for children as it attempts to become the drink of choice for youngsters, and - more importantly - their mothers.
"Parents, and particularly mothers, are the gatekeepers for many children's eating and
drinking occasions, and remain a key market driver since they're clearly becoming more and more informed about how to balance
their children's diet," says Claire Nield, marketing manager
The Appletiser brand, which is currently worth £13.1m across all channels, launched its new Peartiser variant at the beginning of April. Despite being primarily marketed at 25- to 35-year-old women, the company says that it has also become a popular choice for children's lunch boxes due to its 100% juice with a touch of sparkle proposition.
The brand's five-a-day accreditation has also made it a popular choice for school vending machines, from which many of the more sugary carbonated brands have now been removed.
Panda has also given its kids' fruit drinks range an overhaul, removing all artificial colours and flavourings. The brand is also set to roll out guideline daily amounts labelling (GDA) across its entire portfolio later in the year.
Many of the big name carbonated brands have also made themselves healthier for the environment by introducing lighter PET bottles that are easier to recycle.
WRAP has been working closely with Coca-Cola to examine ways of removing some of the material from PET drinks bottles. As a result of this research Coca-Cola will be rolling out a new lighter 500ml bottle from September.
FAST FACTS ABOUT CARBONATES
(Nielsen Scantrack MAT Dec 30 2006)
The growth of the cola market has slowed recently and it now makes up 21% of the soft drinks market (22% in 2006). However, it remains the largest category within carbonates, worth £1.2bn. The popularity of diet colas continues to grow, and they now account for 51% of sales.
Fruit flavoured carbonates
The fruit flavoured carbonates market continues to struggle, down 9% to £328m at the last count - a slight recovery from the 12% fall seen last year. However, category performance was somewhat bolstered by strong growth from 7up and Sprite.
Non-fruit flavoured carbonates
Volume may have remained static but value in the non-fruit flavoured carbonates sector is up 1% to £211m, driven by brand leader Irn Bru which underwent a significant packaging revamp earlier in the year, and by Dr Pepper.