Indian beverage players, numbering in hundreds, have firmed up plans to add fruit juice to carbonated beverages as part of their attempts to lower the Goods and Services Tax (GST) burden. While fizzy drinks such as Coke, Pepsi cola and Sprite attract 40% tax under GST, beverages based on fruit pulp or fruit juice fall in the 12% tax slab. In a bid to increase sourcing from Indian farmers, in 2014, PM Narendra Modi had urged multinational beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to add 5% natural fruit juice in their products. It resulted in Coke launching Fanta with 5% Indian-origin orange juice in select markets. The global giants had pitched for lower taxes on these products, arguing these were not aerated drinks that face higher levies as the government believes that they are not healthy. “Business has taken a big hit after GST,” said MD of Fresca Juices, Akhil Gupta, who along with others in the industry, is leading a consortium of B-brands that operate in small geographies across the country.” Adding fruit juice or pulp to certain variants of fizzy drinks will help local players sustain their low prices.” Over the years, small regional players, including City Cola, Jayanti Beverages, Campa Cola and Xalta, have managed to wrest away share from the biggies in India’s Rs. 14,000-crore soft drinks market by undercutting prices by at least 30-40%. While it is difficult to add fruit juice to colas, said Gupta, fruit pulp or juice can be put into fizzy drinks with orange, lemon or other local flavours. “It could prove to be a good move, especially since colas have been hammered across the world over health concerns,” said Rajat Wahi, partner, management consulting, at Deloitte India. “So, anything that could add a health angle to fizzy drinks will give a leg up to the industry.” Carbonated beverages, such as colas, lead the beverage market with around 70% share. However, industry experts said consumption patterns have shifted over the last three years with a growing preference for healthbased drinks.