Americans are actually drinking more water than soda for the first time in three decades, according to a new report from industry tracker Beverage Digest. Soft drinks have been the American beverage of choice ever since the eighties, when big soda companies like Pepsi launched massive celebrity endorsement campaigns (like the infamous Michael Jackson commercial). By 1998, Americans were drinking 54 gallons of soda per person a year, compared to just 42 gallons of water.
Then the backlash started. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have heard of America’s obesity epidemic. And how maybe, just maybe, the nationwide preference for calorific and sugar-laden soft drinks might be making it worse.
In 2012, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the charge against soda by attempting to impose legal limits on soft drink sizes sold in the Big Apple in an effort to curb obesity. The New York Supreme Court struck down the limits, but Bloomberg’s efforts reflect a larger trend that paints soda as the villain responsible for a nationwide health crisis.
Americans are now drinking an average of 58 gallons of water a year, compared to only 44 gallons of soda. This might seem like a blow to big soft drink companies, but since this is America it’s unlikely that big business will take a backseat to consumer health choices. Many of the leading soda manufacturers also dominate the bottled water market (for example: Coca-Cola owns Dasani, Pepsi has Aquafina) so the Coca-Cola polar bear probably won’t be heading south any time soon.