The average American drank slightly under two sodas per day.
Health advocates are cautiously optimistic about the decline. “It is really important because sugary soft drinks are the No. 1 source of calories in our diets,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “We get more calories from sodas and sugary drinks than any other individual food — cake, cookies, pizza, anything.”
What began as a slow decline accelerated in the middle of the last decade and now threatens some of the best-known brands in the business. Coke and Pepsi are relying more than ever on the “flat” drinks and bottled waters in their portfolios and on increases in the price of sodas, forcing die-hard drinkers to pay more to feed their sugar habits.
Not surprisingly, the country’s largest soda companies insist their carbonated soft drinks business will still grow, if not at as fast a clip as it has historically. “This is not a zero-sum game,” said Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America.
But even they concede that unless the industry stumbles upon what it calls the holy grail, an all-natural sweetener with no calories, the future is going to be more firmly anchored in noncarbonated drinks. “The health and wellness trend is huge, permanent and important,” Mr. Douglas said. “My crystal ball says that a smart beverage company will sell a variety of products, and some of them will have bubbles and some of them won’t.”
Coca-Cola and its competitors have spent the last two decades decreasing their reliance on carbonated soft drinks anyway.