During the 1990s and early 2000s, studies showed that Americans drank an average of more than 50 gallons of soda per person. In the years that followed, however, soda began to lose its appeal as consumers increasingly avoided sugary drinks. American soda consumption has since shrunk to an average of 38.5 gallons per person. In the meantime, many of these former Coke and Pepsi drinkers switched to bottled water, which now exceeds soda in terms of total volume sold.
Last year beverage makers sold 12.8 billion gallons of bottled water, a 9 percent increase from 2015. That amounts to 39 gallons per person, just edging out the year’s per capita soda sales. This represents a big change in American tastes as many consumers seek to eliminate excess sugar from their diets. “Bottled water effectively reshaped the beverage marketplace,” said Michael C. Bellas, chairman and CEO of the Beverage Marketing Corporation. “Where once it would have been unimaginable to see Americans walking down the street carrying plastic bottles of water, or driving around with them in their cars’ cup holders, now that’s the norm.”
Still, not all observers see the switch to bottled water as a good thing. Along with being an alternative choice to soda, bottled water is also an alternative to regular tap water. And while that might not be as appealing as a cool bottle of Fiji or Perrier, tap water is much cheaper and eco-friendly than its pre-packaged competition. Plus, it’s often cleaner: a 2008 study discovered dozens of pollutants in 10 brands of bottled water. What’s more, two of the tested brands were chemically indistinguishable from tap water. So while drinking bottled water is a safer bet than soda, you can always turn on the faucet for a comparable product that is far less expensive.
- Do you think American soda consumption will continue to fall?
- Why do people buy bottled water when they can get tap water practically for free?