The drop in the first quarter was offset by stronger sales of its noncarbonated drinks that include Minute Maid, Powerade and Dasani bottled water. Overall volume rose 2 percent, an improvement from the 1 percent increase the previous quarter.
But the 1 percent decline in global soda volume is notable for Coca-Cola: The last time the figure fell was in 1999, according to the company.
Gary Fayard, the company’s outgoing chief financial officer, attributed the drop partly to the timing of Easter, which falls in the second quarter this year instead of the first.
“It’s not as concerning to us as it would look at first pass,” he said in a phone interview.
He also cited a double-digit soda decline in Great Britain, where the company stood by its pricing despite switching to smaller bottles. For the full year, Fayard said he expects global soda volume to be positive.
The decline in global soda volume comes as Coca-Cola increasingly is relying on non-carbonated beverages to boost sales as sodas continue to face pressure, both at home and abroad. In developed nations like the U.S., soda has been under fire for years over concerns that it fuels weight gain. More recently, executives have blamed declines in diet sodas on concerns about artificial sweeteners.
For the quarter, Coca-Cola’s soda volume slipped 1 percent in North America and 5 percent in Europe. It also took a hit in Mexico as the country instituted a tax on the sugary drinks, although the company didn’t specify the severity of the decline.
For now, sodas still account for 75 percent of the company’s case volume outside the U.S. Overall, 81 percent of the company’s case volume comes from overseas.
Going forward, CEO Muhtar Kent stressed during a call with reporters that the company would pursue “balanced growth between stills and sparkling,” as well as different regions of the world.
Coca-Cola isn’t alone in its struggles to boost soda sales. PepsiCo Inc., which reports its quarterly results Thursday, has suffered even steeper declines despite stepped-up marketing, including sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show.