Is the Downfall of Soda Imminent?

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they avoid soft drinks.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 28, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

The all-American meal of a burger, fries, and a soda is becoming a thing of the past—at least in terms of beverage choice, according to new polling data from Gallup.

A poll conducted in July found that 63 percent of Americans say they avoid soda in their diets. When the polling agency asked the same question 10 years ago, the number was 51 percent. Just two years before, in 2002, only 41 percent of Americans said they avoid soda.

It suggests that, despite Coca-Cola, the world’s largest soda maker, announcing last week that sales rose by 3 percent in the second quarter, Americans’ attitude toward soft drinks is changing. While the average resident of Mexico—the world’s leading soft drink consumer—continues to drink, on average, more than a can of soda per day, the same can’t be said for the United States. Analysts at JP Morgan expected Coke’s sales to rise by 1 to 2 percent in North America in its most recent earnings report, according to Reuters—but sales were flat. That’s despite Mexico’s rampant consumption.

In Coke’s case, a drop in diet soda consumption is affecting North American sales; there’s actually been an increase in sales of traditional Coke. But the days of soda being the most widely consumed beverage in America are long over—consumption peaked in 1998 at 54 gallons annually per person. The drop began long before soda taxes and soda bans and talk of sugar as an addictive drug landed in the heart of the beverage zeitgeist.

Today the turn away from soda is very much tied to a larger push toward healthier eating (and drinking), which is evident in the new numbers from Gallup.

“The data generally show that Americans are highly aware of what they should and should not be including in their diet,” the polling firm’s Justin McCarthy writes. Ninety-three percent of respondents say they include vegetables in their diet, and 92 percent include fruit. Conversely, 52 percent avoid sugar, up from 43 percent in 2002. So, it’s not as sharp of a drop as the decline in soda consumption but a change in attitudes nonetheless.

As of 2013, Americans were drinking an average of 44 gallons of soda per year, according to Beverage Digest, down 17 percent from the 1998 peak. Water is now the No. 1 beverage in the United States—we’re drinking 58 gallons of it annually.