Sugar Crash: U.S. Soda Consumption Hits 30-Year Low

The industry-wide slump in 2015 was even worse for the leading cola brands.
(Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
Mar 31, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

Red meat consumption may be set to rise in the U.S. for the first time in a decade, but in other diet- and public health–related news, Americans drank less soda in 2015—making that 11 straight years of decline and a 30-year low.

According to a new report from Beverage Digest, Americans drank 1.2 percent less soda, by volume, in 2015, outpacing the 0.9 percent decline from 2014. Pepsi, one of the iconic dueling cola brands, saw consumption slip by 3.2. Fanta, which is owned by Coke, is one of the few beverages that saw significant growth: Americans drank 8.3 percent more of the fruit-flavored sodas last year.

The 11th year of soda’s slump comes as Philadelphia is considering a soda tax; the organizers behind the successful 2014 soda-tax ballot measure in Berkeley, California, are trying to convince other cities they can do the same; and, across the pond, the United Kingdom is moving toward a nationwide tax on sugary beverages. And outside the policy realm, Coke weathered a months-long scandal last year over its funding and continued involvement with the operations of a nonprofit that promoted exercise as the solution to obesity over diet.

The industry spin on the news is that consumers aren’t moving away from soda but are simply drinking it differently. “The consumer is moving to smaller packages,” Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, said at the Morgan Stanley Global Consumer & Retail Conference last year, according to Business Insider. “A 12-ounce traded to a 7-ounce can is a 30 percent reduction in volume, but it’s an increase in revenue.”

Americans appear to be heeding the call of nutritionists and public-health experts to not consume more than a day’s worth of sugar contained in a can of Coke (per the World Health Organization’s guidelines). But these are global companies, and the industry is turning to overseas markets—including poor, developing countries where clean water can be hard to come by—for future growth. According to a recent report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, emerging and developing markets are expected to account for 70 percent of soda sales in 2018, up from 55 percent in 2008.