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Saudi Arabia's carbonated soft drink market.

The London based global market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres PLC, better known as TNS, recently completed an ongoing audit of beverage preferences in Saudi Arabia focusing specifically on carbonated soft drinks (CSDs).

TNS found some significant changes in the market since its last audit of this specific product category in 2003. One of the most intriguing differences that emerged was a dip in consumption of CSD-colas in the Saudi metropolitan areas of Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. The same pattern was observed (in another study) with coffee and tea.

The finding was so striking that TNS wondered if the researchers hadn't stumbled across a "negative health perception" about the two product categories. Neither study provided any substantive information to answer the question, but TNS further observed that there was a noticeable shift among female survey respondents from CSD-cola beverages to CSD-non cola beverages. TNS speculated that there was likewise a shift among middle and older age group consumers to the CSD-non cola beverages over the past two years.

Other findings of note included the fact that CSD-cola beverages were a favorite drink of men in the market. The proportion of men drinking CSD-cola increased from 2003 to 2005.

The study also asked consumers about their reasons for drinking CSD-cola and CSD-non cola.

Respondents favoring each category both had the same main reason why they drank these beverages. The reason was "as an aid to digestion." And of the CSD-cola drinkers, 45 percent responded this way. Among CSD-non cola respondents, 29 percent said this was their main reason.

Problem: If increased health awareness caused the shift that TNS observed, and this, in turn, begins to erode the "aid to digestion" reason for drinking CSDs, then the product category could end up losing share to other beverages. Only further study would likely settle the matter.

Reason number two was to "Wash down food, make it easier to eat," and here again the two groups ranked it the same with the percentages quite similar. CSD-cola drinkers numbered 24 percent on this item while the CSD-non cola drinkers were 26 percent.

To gauge the Saudi beverage market, TNS says it tracks 2,400 respondents annually asking about their "yesterday beverage consumption." The firm also says the study is representative of all regions of the country, urban and rural.

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Publication:Market Africa Mid-East
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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