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The New York Times reports this morning that more and more, soft drink manufacturers are having to focus on the non-carbonated offerings in their portfolios, as the cultural zeitgeist moves away from such products.

Here's how the Times frames the story:

"Cold, bubbly, sweet soda, long the American Champagne, is becoming product non grata in more places these days. Schools are removing sugary soft drinks from vending machines at a faster pace, and local governments from San Antonio to Boston are stepping up efforts to take them out of public facilities as the nation’s concerns about obesity and its costs grow.

"Last year, the average American drank slightly under two sodas a day, a drop in per capita consumption of about 16 percent since the peak in 1998, according to Beverage Digest, a trade publication.

"What began as a slow decline accelerated in the middle of the last decade and now threatens some of the best-known brands in the business. Coke and Pepsi are relying more than ever on the 'flat' drinks and bottled waters in their portfolios and on increases in the price of sodas, forcing die-hard drinkers to pay more to feed their sugar habits."

While industry insiders say that they believe the carbonated business will continue to grow, albeit more slowly than in the past, they also concede, according to the , that "unless the industry stumbles upon what it calls the holy grail, an all-natural sweetener with no calories, the future is going to be more firmly anchored in noncarbonated drinks."

Anti-obesity advocates, on the other hand, seem thrilled about the shift, though they also are "worried about what may be taking the place of carbonated soft drinks in the American diet. They note the increasing appetite for energy drinks, loaded with sugar as well as caffeine, and noncarbonated sports drinks, which may have as much sugar as sodas."
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