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Consumer environmental concerns are having an increasing impact on their packaged beverage buying behavior, according to a new study from BeveragePulse.com.

Consumers Maintain Environmental Focus
Even during the current recession, “Environmental Concerns: The Impact on Beverage and Package Decisions,” indicates that an overwhelming majority of consumers have maintained their focus on the environment.

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Ninety-four percent of consumers are very or somewhat concerned about environmental issues, with 49% considering themselves very concerned.

Recycling Dominant Issue for Beverage Packaging
Recycling was cited most frequently (45%) as being the most important environmental concern when it comes to packaged beverages. The related issue of landfills was second and use of renewable resources was third.

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In addition, the majority of respondents (56%) indicated that recycling rate or recycled content is the most important attribute of a sustainable or environmentally friendly beverage package. Use of renewable resources, carbon footprints, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and other issues were cited less frequently as being most important.

Respondents were forced to choose one attribute that is most important.

Environmental Concerns Can Decrease Bottled Water Consumption
Environmental concerns are especially important to consumers buying less bottled water today than one year ago. Among these consumers, close to 60% said environmental reasons are the main reason they are buying less. This compares to roughly 10% of consumers buying less carbonated soda today than one year ago and slightly more than 20% of consumers buying less of other packaged beverages today than one year ago.

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In addition, about 35% of consumers said environmental concerns are more important for bottled water than other packaged beverages, with more than 60% saying they are of about the same importance. Fewer than 5% said environmental concerns are less important for bottled water.

Health Concerns Can Increase Bottled Water Consumption
For consumers who have increased their bottled water consumption in the past year, the overriding reason is health (almost 80%). A slightly lower percentage of these consumers selected the environment as a reason than the percentage of consumers buying more carbonated soda or other packaged beverages. Economic reasons were the primary driver for consumers buying more carbonated soda and other packaged beverages.

Retailers Downsize H2O, Expand Soda
Retailers are decreasing their SKU assortment of water SKUs but increasing their assortment of carbonated soda SKUs, according to recent data from The Nielsen Company. Results of the March 2010 “Nielsen Retailer Assortment Survey” indicate that in 2009, of the 32 categories analyzed by the study, 23 experienced an average decrease of 2% in the number of items offered.

The biggest losers were the cookie (-8%), water (-6%) and shampoo (-4%) categories, which saw the highest number of items removed from the shelf. Concurrently, the biggest winner categories expanding SKU count included shower gel and yogurt (up 6% each), as well as carbonated soft drinks (up 3%).

About the Data: BeveragePulse.com conducted 521 quantitative interviews and N=40 one on one chat sessions from June 6-11, 2010 Respondents were men and women ages 18 and older from across the country who qualified as primary grocery shoppers.

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