An increasingly automated and technologically driven world has resulted in some of the biggest shifts in fmcg consumer and shopper behaviour ever witnessed. These macro trends and the need to help increasingly sedentary consumers lead healthy, balanced lifestyles have put a spotlight on food and drink.

We understand the current discussion about the soft drinks category and the serious societal challenge posed by obesity. However, the debate needs to be balanced and recognise the fact that the solution lies in collective action by many. Industry has a part to play and for many years has sought to innovate to provide the choice necessary to fit ever-changing consumer preferences and lifestyles. It is taking action, but these actions alone will not fix the undeniable public health challenges.

That’s one reason why 60% of soft drink sales in the UK are of low or no-calorie products, according to the British Soft Drinks Association’s analysis of the category. It’s a trend that has been accelerating in recent years, as leading companies such as ours have committed to reduce the calories per litre across our portfolio. In our case, we made a pledge as part of the Department of Health’s Responsibility Deal to reduce the average calories per litre of our range of sparkling drinks by 5% per litre over a three-year period.

“We believe all our products can be enjoyed as part a balanced diet”

Let’s not forget that soft drinks remains one of the most dynamic categories in fmcg. One of the driving factors behind our category’s success is the relentless pace of innovation. Last year, innovation added £241m in terms of value to the category. Much of this value growth relates to new products helping people make healthier choices - such as lower-calorie products or portion-controlled packs, like the Coca-Cola 250ml slimline can.

As category leader, we take our responsibilities seriously. We believe passionately that all our products can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. But we are responding to the debates on health. And we are innovating to meet new consumer needs.

For proof you need look no further than this week’s launch of Coca-Cola Life. At 89kcal in a 330ml can and with sweetness from natural sources, we believe it will be a game changer for the industry. It represents the biggest innovation in the cola segment since Coke Zero launched in 2006 and is the latest action we are taking to help address the complex obesity issue by providing greater choice for those looking for a lower-calorie cola with the same great Coke taste. And it will meet the need of a changing adult demographic.

Consumers are embracing the choice we now offer - which is why Diet Coke and Coke Zero account for more than 40% of our cola sales in Great Britain.

We are not alone in providing new ideas, nor are we alone in stepping up to meet the challenges and the debate. I truly remain excited about this industry’s future and its ability to remain hugely popular with consumers. And as industry leaders, we continue to remain committed to offering our consumers a suitable choice for every occasion.

Nick Canney is sales and marketing VP at Coca-Cola Enterprises