Facts & Figures

Introducing the beverage sector

The market

The European soft drinks industry comprises a wide variety of soft drinks formats from carbonated drinks and squashes through to energy and sports drinks.

The industry offers a range of choice for every palate and occasion.  This includes different flavours, packaging formats and sizes from single servings through to larger sizes for sharing.  It also includes a full range of no- and low-calorie products which now account for up to 30% of soft drinks sales in many European markets.

Soft drinks contribute less than 3% of calories to the average daily diet in Europe.


Soft drinks are an essential part of everyone’s daily diet as they maintain hydration levels.  Keeping the body well hydrated is important in ensuring optimum mental and physical functioning in humans. Consuming 2-3 litres of fluid each day, comprising both drinks and food such as fruit and vegetables, will generally keep hydration levels normal.   The exact amount of fluid lost depends on body type, activity levels and climate but maintaining hydration is crucial for optimal health.

Studies have shown that people maintain hydration most successfully when they have a variety of flavours and drinks choices available throughout the day.  The basic ingredient of a non-alcoholic beverage is always water.  Sometimes a sweetener and a flavour are added.  Water represents about 90% of a sugar-containing carbonated drink (even more in low calorie versions).

It is scientifically proven that losing more than 2% of body weight from dehydration can decrease mental and physical performance causing fatigue, headaches, lack of concentration and lack of coordination.  This means that if the average 75kg person loses 1.5 litres of fluid they will begin to be dehydrated.  And of course in children dehydration can occur with the loss of just half a litre of fluids – meaning that they will be less alert at school and start to feel tired.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently stressed the special role that beverages play in the diet due to their hydration properties.***

* Canadean statistics

** SSD Europe

*** European Food Safety authority comment on the special role of non-alcoholic beverages in the diet within its opinion on Nutrient profiles.

Our Actions

Variety and Choice

The European soft drinks industry is committed to providing a range of products for consumers to choose from.  It recognises that it must act responsibly, particularly in relation to more vulnerable groups in society such as children.  As a part of this commitment the industry has taken action in four key areas, mirroring WHO strategy:

  1. product innovation and reformulation to offer a wide variety and choice of no-and low-calorie drinks;
  2. no advertising to children under 12 on TV, in print or online;
  3. no sales in primary schools across Europe, and sales in secondary schools to offer a full range of drinks options in unbranded machines;

Guideline Daily Amount labelling across branded products in order that customers can make    informed choices about the products they buy for themselves and their families.

UNESDA, representing the European Soft Drinks Industry, was one of just four organisations to be named and praised by the EU Commissioner for Health for its actions to address obesity and healthy lifestyles.  It was particularly commended for the way it had appointed independent auditors to monitor its compliance with the commitments it has made.

Lifestyle and Exercise

UNESDA follows medical opinion and believes that balanced diets and active lifestyles are the key to a sustainable healthy lifestyle.  Exercise and physical activity play a key role in this and UNESDA members have committed to work at both European and national level to promote physical activity and encourage consumers to keep active.  UNESDA members provide practical and financial support to initiatives such as fun days, marathons and city runs, working with local authorities and sporting organisations.

They also practice what they preach and have significant internal programmes to drive exercise and healthy lifestyles among their own staff.

Consumer Information

The European soft drinks industry was the first to adopt Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) based nutrition labelling as an entire sector back in 2007.

GDAs are science based and rely on nutrition recommendations from a panel of experts established by the European Commission.  They allow consumers to evaluate a product’s place in the daily diet and empower them to compose a balance diet adapted to their individual needs.

Independent research by the European Food Information Council found that more than 80% of consumers in Germany, France and the UK were able to determine which product was the most healthy by using GDAs.

UNESDA corporate members’ products carry the following labelling.


UNESDA members recognise that the sector has a role to play in taking up its responsibility to manage resources and reduce waste throughout its production processes and distribution activities.  Soft drinks is a predominantly local industry in Europe and we aim to respond to local consumer needs, both in terms of taste and convenience.  The majority of ingredients used in our beverages are sourced locally and production is situated relatively close to the markets and consumers it serves, resulting in low food miles.

Crucially of course, our products are used for hydration, and as such water is a key ingredient. The conservation of water is something that we take very seriously and are working hard to address. Packaging too is a key resource for the industry and we have taken a number of steps to introduce  sustainable packaging policies as well as effective systems for reduction, recovery and recycling.

Innovation and investment in the area of environmental sustainability will continue to be a key priority for the industry in the years ahead.


The soft drinks industry is highly innovative with some 40% of the products on sale today having been introduced in the past five years.

Soft drinks myths

Carbonated soft drinks are very high in calories. 

Fact: A regular soft drink in a 330ml can contains around 139 calories.  The recommended calorie intake per day is 2500 for men and 2000 for women.  No and low-calorie versions now account for up to 30% of total non-alcoholic beverage sales in many European markets.

Carbonated soft drinks contain a lot of sugar.

Fact: A 33ml can of a regular soft drink contains about 35 gms of sugar - about the same as an equivalent glass of orange juice. Sugar is an entirely natural and wholesome product.

Sugary soft drinks are fattening.

Fact: Full sugar soft drinks contain carbohydrate, which has 4 kcal/g. Whereas fat contains approximately 9kcal/g.

Soft drinks are de-hydrating

Fact: Hydration comes from any liquid source such as drinks, fruit, vegetables and other foods.  Science shows that soft drinks play an important role in hydrating the body and that people hydrate better when they have a variety of food and drinks in their daily diet.  The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently stressed the special role that beverages play in the diet due to their hydration properties