Bottled water has gone from a fringe product for suspicious purists to one of the most popular drinks in America, while soda's frailties as a beverage finally seem to be catching up with it.
These trends were formally recognized this week when Beverage Digest reported that Americans now drink an average of about 58 gallons of water per year, an increase of 38 percent from 1998. 15 years ago, U.S. consumption of soft drinks peaked, according to the publication, at 54 gallons of soda per year; consumption since then has dropped by 17 percent, to 44 gallons of soda per year.
All of that is welcome news to nutritionists who've been—successfully, it seems—telling the public about the empty calories in soft drinks and castigating Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper and the like as one of the (if you believe a certain mayor) biggest villains in the nation's war on obesity. There's a reason that Mike Bloomberg has targeted soft drinks for his big-sugary-beverage ban in the Big Apple, even though many disagree with his tactics.
The emergence of single-serve bottles of water about a decade ago was another major inflection point in these trends. Consumption of bottled water has led the rise in water consumption overall, with bottles now comprising about 21 gallons a year for the average American. Bottled water has passed up milk and beer over the last 15 years, as well. It isn't clear how much tap water people drink because of its many uses, but experts estimated consumption.
In fact, bottled water alone could overtake soft-drink consumption within the next decade, Michael Bellas, CEO of industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp., told Fox News. That isn't counting the proliferating number of "enhanced" and flavored waters, which are growing quickly but remain a small part of the bottled water total.
Of course, beverage giants saw this coming, which is why Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and others offer their own brands of bottled water. While seeing the writing on the wall about the long-term prospects for soft-drink consumption, selling Coke and Pepsi remain crucial to the companies' prospects.
So they'll keep doing it—and giving us Beyonce and Taylor Swift to help remind us that there's still nothing like an ice-cold cola.