07 February 2014

More choice, less kilojoules:  Australia’s ‘thirst for change’ through 15 years of beverage trends


Research released today highlights that Australians have embraced more choice and less kilojoules when it comes to the beverages they consume.

‘Quenching Australia’s thirst: a trend analysis of water-based beverage sales from 1997 to 20111 published in Nutrition & Dietetics has revealed significant changes in what Australians are drinking.

Analysis of 15 years of grocery and food service data (including vending, convenience and dining) shows that sales of water-based non-alcoholic beverages has grown by two per cent each year. This includes soft drinks, sports drinks, iced tea, mixers, flavoured and mineral water.

Nearly one in two drinks consumed are now non-sugar varieties (42% volume share in 2011), compared to 30% in 1997. Long-term trends in Australians’ drinking habits include:

  • One in three carbonated soft drinks consumed are non-sugar  (33% of total soft drink sales, 2011
  • Sugar contribution from water based beverages (e.g. soft drinks, sports drinks, iced tea)  for each person has dropped by 17 per cent between 1997 and 2011
  • Sugar contribution from carbonated soft drinks has dropped by around a quarter (26%) for each person as consumers switch from sugar-sweetened to non-sugar sweetened soft drink

The research also highlights that Australians’ beverage preferences change according to life-stage and household structure.

The highest household consumers of soft drinks (both regular and low-kilojoule) are families with teenage children, while families with young children were the lowest overall.

  • Teenage males are the biggest overall consumers when it comes to soft drinks (both regular and low-kilojoule) sports drinks, energy drinks and iced teas
  • Teenage girls are the biggest consumers of bottled water
  • Australians 50 plus are the biggest consumers of mixers, but the lowest of bottled water
  • Families with young children and adults under 35 were the lowest consumers of soft drinks

Bill Shrapnel, research co-author and dietitian, said the research highlighted an important trend in how Australian drinking habits change.

“Our research shows there has been a shift from sugar-sweetened towards non-sugar sweetened drinks over 15 years leading to a significant drop in the sugar contribution from water-based beverages, especially soft drinks. Less sugar means less kilojoules. It’s a very important shift in Australian’s beverage behaviour that is consistent with public health objectives,” Mr Shrapnel said.

“This research highlights that what someone prefers to drink changes according to their life-stage. Young adults or families with young children have completely different tastes to a busy Australian teenager, indicating our beverage habits don’t last a lifetime,” Mr Shrapnel said.

Australian Beverages Council CEO, Geoff Parker said the latest research highlights that Australians are making a variety of beverage choices and industry has led this change.

“These long-term trends are encouraging and demonstrate the beverage industry has adapted and continued to innovate providing more beverage options.

“The beverage industry has been listening and responding to the needs of our consumers and is serious about providing choice in the context of increasing awareness of healthy lifestyles.

“When you look across the supermarket shelves today, you can see the beverage category is unique in providing low and no-kilojoule options alongside the regular drinks.  This research indicates the importance of this innovation by providing consumers with variety and choice,” Mr Parker said.



  1. 1.      Levy G.S., Shrapnel W.S. (2014) Quenching Australia’s thirst: a trend analysis of water-based beverage sales from 1997 to 2011. Nutrition & Dietetics. doi: 10.1111/1747-0080.12108

Notes to Editor

  • Quenching Australia’s thirst: a trend analysis of water-based beverage sales from 1997 to 2011 was commissioned by the Australian Beverages Council
  • Methodology: Phase 1: Comprehensive analysis of grocery sales surveys (AC Nielsen Scan Track Surveys) and industry estimates of volume sales in food service, vending, convenience and dining purchases between 1997 and 2011. Phase 2: Home Scan Consumer Panel (AC Nielsen), 2007-2011
  •  Water based beverages includes – carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, iced tea, flavoured still waters,  mineral waters, mixers (e.g. tonic water and ginger ale)
  • Non-sugar water-based beverages includes – Diet carbonated soft drinks, still unflavoured  water, unflavoured mineral water, diet energy drinks, diet iced tea and diet mixers.


For more information, or to arrange an interview with Geoff Parker, please contact:

Sian Jenkins, 0414 719 289, sian.jenkins@hkstrategies.com

Natalie Blake, 0421 868 384, natalie.blake@hkstrategies.com

The Australian Beverages Council is the peak body for the non-alcoholic beverages industry and represents 95% of the industry’s production volume through membership.