Soda Makers Give Big Push to Mini Cans

NEW YORK — There has been a lot of talk about shrinking the size of soft drinks, and now some beverage giants are embracing the idea.

The Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are pushing smaller cans and bottles that contain fewer calories. According to The Associated Press, the move comes at a price. The little cans can cost more than twice as much per ounce.

The 7.5-ounce "mini cans" and 8-ounce and 8.5-ounce glass and aluminum bottles have been around for years, but Coca-Cola and Pepsi are now bringing them to a wider audience. As part of its "Share-a-Coke" campaign that printed popular names on cans and bottles last year, for instance, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola says it distributed a million mini cans.

The transition, according to the report, means the smaller items are taking up more space on store shelves.

The focus on pushing smaller packages signals a shift from the past couple of decades, when beverage makers measured success by the volume of soda they sold. Soda consumption has steadily declined in recent years, with public health officials blaming it for the rise in obesity rates and calling for special taxes and even warning labels on cans.

According to the AP, Coca-Cola and Purchase, N.Y.-based Pepsi are pushing smaller cans and bottles that give their products a sense of newness among the growing proliferation of beverage choices. The companies also say the tiny sizes cater to people's desire for more modest servings.

During a presentation in November, Coca-Cola's North American President Sandy Douglas said the health and wellness trend has set up "a tremendous opportunity for the Coca-Cola brand with our smaller packages."

He noted that a regular 12-ounce can of Coke sells for 31 cents on average. By comparison, a 7.5-ounce mini-can sells for 40 cents. This translates to 2.6 cents per ounce for a regular can vs. 5.3 cents per ounce for the mini version.

And while the beverage maker may be selling less soda, Coca-Cola said smaller packs are driving up revenue. Sales of Coke's smaller sizes — which include a 1.25-liter bottle as an alternative to the 2-liter bottle — were up 9 percent last year through October, according to the presentation by Douglas. By comparison, sales of its 12-ounce cans and 2-liter bottles edged up 0.1 percent, the news agency reported.

The latest packaging shift does not mean Coca-Cola and Pepsi are stepping away from their larger-size servings. And it's not clear how big the appetite for the newer cans and bottles can grow over time. In 2013, mini-cans accounted for 1.1 percent of sales volume in supermarkets, according to Beverage Digest. But they accounted for 2.4 percent of sales dollars, more than double their volume share.

Bonnie Herzog, a beverage industry analyst with Wells Fargo Securities, said the smaller options are part of how Coca-Cola is repositioning itself amid changing consumer habits around soda. She noted the company is also pushing Coke Life, a reduced-calorie drink sweetened with a mix of sugar and stevia, the AP reported.

"It's responsible and it's realistic," Herzog said, noting the smaller sizes are marketed as "moments of pleasure" people don't have to give up.

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