Americans Say "Bah! Humbug!" To Diet Colas And Beer

4:28 PM, Dec 9, 2013   |    comments
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Aimee Picchi, CBS Moneywatch

The diet cola and beer industries are going flat, with sales of both drinks suffering a slump as Americans worry about their health and spending habits. 

Diet cola, once the darling of the soda industry, has seen an abrupt reversal of fortune, The Wall Street Journal reports. Store sales of zero- and low-calorie sodas have plunged almost 7 percent during the past year through Nov. 23, far outpacing a smaller 2.2 percent slip in sales of regular soda, the paper notes.

The reason? Concerns among consumers about the safety of artificial sweeteners. A July article published in "Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism" argued that artificial sweeteners might create "metabolic derangements" by confusing the body's regulation of caloric intake, The Journal notes. Other studies have linked diet sodas to obesity and other health problems.

Coca-Cola (KO) has sought to allay customers' fears through an ad campaign that says that the "safety of aspartame is supported by more than 200 studies over the last 40 years." 

Oddly, there's another development potentially affecting diet cola sales: There are fewer dieters today than a decade ago. The number of dieters reached an all-time low in 2012, with only one-fifth of adults watching their calorie intake. Just a decade earlier, almost one-third of Americans were slimming down, according to a study from The NPD Group.

Beer isn't looking too frothy, either. Beer sales have slipped 2.3 percent between 2007 to 2012, ABC News reports, citing data from Beer Marketer's Insights. Michelob Light has been a big loser, plunging 70 percent. 

Beer drinkers are increasingly turning to other beverages for health reasons, while some are concerned about the rising cost of beer, as USA Today noted earlier this year. Beer prices in restaurants and bars jumped as much as 6.8 percent from October 2012 through April 2013, a study from Restaurant Sciences found. 

One big winner has been the wine industry, with 35 percent of Americans telling Gallup that they're turning to wine as their drink of choice. That's up from just 27 percent of Americans in 1992. Beer, meanwhile, has lost more than 10 percentage points in the same time period.

CBS News

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