Carbon is not just an issue for carbonated drinks. Across the range of beverages, consumers now care about the carbon footprint of what they are buying, both in terms of food miles and the environmental soundness of the packaging. They are also concerned about the provenance of some ingredients, leading experts to feel that the company that projects itself as the greenest will have a measurable advantage in the market.

"Consumers are aware of the environmental impact of the products they buy, and are increasingly demanding recyclable packaging," says John Revess, marketing director for Rexam Beverage Can Europe and Asia.

"This offers a huge opportunity for brands and retailers to position themselves at the ethical and environmentally friendly end of the branding spectrum, both with product and with packaging."

Claire Nuttall, client director at brand agency Dragon, agrees. "People will look for sustainable and responsible lines, and one big issue will be carbon labelling."

The Carbon Trust's label has made its debut on Walkers cheese & onion crisps and will be heading for soft drinks if chief executive Tom Delay gets his way. Innocent is the first label to sign up. "This label, with its built-in commitment to reduce the product's carbon footprint, will act as a powerful bridge connecting carbon-conscious companies and their customers.

"Establishing one standard, credible way of measuring a product's carbon content will empower consumers to make informed decisions as well as drive business to invest in lowering the carbon content of products."

Carbon footprint labels will bring the concept of food miles to soft drinks in a way that is only currently the case in fresh fruit and veg, says Nuttall. "People will want to know how far their drinks have travelled to get to their shop. While consumers are less likely to insist colas have come from down the road, buying British will be important."

Companies selling juices and juice-based products are already conscious of the advantages of showing consumers the origin of their drinks and the route to market, and Nuttall feels other drinks companies will have to embrace this green concept in packaging, too.

Revess notes this trend has already been seen in other countries. "There has been a distinct shift in Europe from the use of refillable packs to the use of non-refillable but easily recyclable packs. What's more, it's no longer just the packaging format itself that shapes consumer opinion.

"Efficient transportation and a reduction in the emissions resulting from transportation are also becoming important." n