Americans Pass Important Sugary Milestone: We Now Buy More Bottled Water Than Soda

Image courtesy of Steven Depolo

Late last summer, experts predicted that Americans would soon reach an important beverage milestone. We were close to the point where we would be purchasing more bottled water than sweetened soft drinks. According to a new report, we’ve finally passed that point, gulping 12.8 billion gallons from bottles in 2016, an increase of 9% from 2015.

This news comes courtesy of the Beverage Marketing Corp., which contends that this shift toward bottle water is the result of a cultural change. To use the report’s just-a-bit hyperbolic language, we’ve gradually come to realize that bottled water is “the ultimate portable and affordable beverage,” which eventually “spawned new usage occasions and habits.”

That comes out to about 39 gallons of bottled water per capita each year, while the average consumption of soda fell in 2016 to 38.5 gallons. Don’t cry for the beverage-makers, of course: The same companies that market soft drinks also market bottled water. Pepsi even advertised a new bottled water brand in a prime spot during the Super Bowl.

“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,” Michael C. Bellas, the chairman and CEO of the Beverage Marketing Corporation, said in a statement.

The change isn’t all due to the hard work of beverage marketers, though. People in cities with deteriorating lead pipe systems, of which Flint, MI is the most notorious, are not choosing to buy bottles of water because they’re a “portable and affordable beverage,” but because they’d prefer not to be poisoned by the water from their own taps.