Despite health concerns, Indians are in no mood to give up their Cokes and Pepsis

Everyone drinks cola.
Everyone drinks cola.
Image: AP Photo/Aman Sharma
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India is thirsting for sugary soft drinks, even as much of the world is losing its appetite for these unhealthy beverages.

The consumption of carbonated drinks in India increased 9% in 2015, compared to a 1% growth across the world, according to estimates from market research firm Euromonitor. For 2016, Euromonitor predicts that the growth in the consumption of carbonated drinks in India will be around 8.53%, taking the total consumption volume to 3,023 million litres. In many other countries, the growth in consumption is significantly lower or has even gone in the negative.

Overall, consumption of the soft drinks category—including carbonated drinks, sweetened juices, pre-made tea and coffee mixes, aerated water and sports and energy drinks—grew 18% in India in 2015. Meanwhile, worldwide consumption in the category only grew at 3.8%.

Increased disposable income, rise of fast-food chains, and concentrated marketing campaigns by beverage makers have contributed to the rise of consumption (pdf) of soft drinks in India. And with new launches likely soon, the competition between beverage makers will only intensify.

Bisleri International, the original maker of iconic soft drink brands like Thums Up and Gold Spot, is reportedly working on launching new brands of aerated drinks. The firm had sold the Thums Up, Gold Spot, Limca, Citra, and Maaza brands to Coca-Cola in 1993 and signed a non-compete agreement, which ended in 2008. Bisleri, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are the top three companies by market share in the soft drinks segment in India, according to Euromonitor.

Health concerns

With an expanding middle class and increasingly sedentary lifestyle, Indians have seen a substantial rise in diseases like diabetes in recent years. In fact, India has the highest number of diabetes patients in the world at over 31.7 million, followed by China and the US.  And this growth in consumption of soft drinks simply adds to the problem.

Here is what the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based think tank, said in a statement in July:

A new study has estimated that sugar drinks are causing 184,000 deaths worldwide per year. Diabetes is the greatest cause of deaths (133,000), followed by heart disease (45,000). Mexico had the highest death rate—and about 24,000 deaths per year). The United States, Indonesia and Brazil had the next highest death rates. Even though consumption is still very low in India, the researchers estimated that sugar drinks are causing about 10,000 deaths per year.

The government has proposed to levy a “sin tax” on aerated drinks, as part of the goods and services tax. However, the bill is still stuck in the parliament.