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Soda Sales Continue Nearly Twenty-Year Freefall

Per Capita Consumption Drops 27% From 1998 Peak

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A still from the Change the Tune movie

Americans, eager to reduce their risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and tooth decay are continuing to cut down on their consumption of full-calorie soda, according to new data released by the trade publication Beverage Digest.

Based on those data, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest says that Americans are drinking more than one-fourth less soda than in 1998, when consumption peaked. In fact, Americans are now back to drinking about as much as they did in 1985. CSPI is urging health officials at the local, state, and federal levels of government to enact policies to drive down soda consumption even further, perhaps to levels observed in the 1960s, when soda was an occasional treat served in reasonable portions.

“Drinking nine or 10 teaspoons of sugar makes no sense, and most Americans have wised up to what’s really in a single soda,” said CSPI president Michael F. Jacobson. “The soda industry, which for years has lectured the public about energy balance and moderation, has been marketing excessive consumption, both in terms of frequency and volume. A comprehensive government strategy to drive down consumption further could be a boon to Americans’ health and lower the healthcare costs paid by taxpayers.”

CSPI produced “Change the Tune,” a remake of Coca-Cola’s famous “Hilltop” ad, perhaps the most famous soda ad of all time.

 Lawmakers in California are proposing a two-cent-per-ounce health impact fee on sugar-sweetened beverages in that state. In Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney (D) is proposing a three-cent-per-ounce excise tax on sugary drinks to help raise $400 million over five years for universal Pre-K, parks, and other programs. In Congress, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has offered legislation that would institute a tax of one-cent per teaspoon of caloric sweetener. CSPI has estimated that a federal excise tax could raise $10 billion a year for prevention programs.

Besides taxes, CSPI has advocated for warning labels, mass media campaigns, and curbs on availability in schools, public places, and children’s restaurant meals. In recent years, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and other chains have removed soda from children’s meals and menus. CSPI has also advocated for a new Daily Value and a line for added sugars on Nutrition Facts labels, which would show that a 20-ounce Coke has 130% of the daily recommended limit.

Contact Info: 

Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).