Undertaken by Global Data, the study marks the 60th anniversary of the UNESDA trade association, which represents 22 national associations and companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Red Bull, Suntory, Danone and Nestle.
Generating €185bn ($218bn) in revenue throughout the EU value chain equates to 1.24% of EU GDP, while the sector delivers almost €30bn ($35bn) in tax contributions to EU member states.
UNESDA president, Stanislas de Gramont, CEO of Suntory Beverage and Food Europe, said: “Our sector is rooted in the European economy and enjoys a strong connection with the industries throughout its value chain.
“This goes from the agricultural sector where we source ingredients including fruit, berries and sugar beet; to the packaging and raw materials industries; through to the transport and distribution sectors and finally to the supermarkets, shops, bars and restaurants across the continent where our products are sold. We contribute revenue, jobs and investment.”
The European soft drinks industry sustains more than 1.7 million jobs along the length of its supply chain – 168,447 directly and 1,546,578 indirectly.
Europeans whose jobs rely directly or indirectly on the soft drinks industry receive a total income in salaries of €26.7bn ($31.5bn) before income tax and each worker directly employed by the soft drinks industry represents another nine jobs supported in associated industries.
UNESDA says the sector is effectively a local industry, contributing to local economies, with ingredients sourced from local farmers and producers while production sites employ local people.
It adds that demand for agricultural produce and packaging supports farming and manufacturing across the EU, estimating that 137,500 arable farms across the EU grow crops destined for soft drinks production.
Meanwhile, soft drinks companies spend €70m ($82m) a year on research and development, usually within the companies themselves. Around 560 researchers and scientists are employed in such roles to develop new products to meet evolving consumer tastes and trends.
The study is based on 2016 data.