An Ode To Soda, The Beverage On The Decline

Americans have successfully vilified soda, but what does that mean for the obesity epidemic?

Jul 26, 2015 at 11:51 AM ET

Americans are finally scared of soda: For ten years in a row, they’ve been buying less of it. The amount of full-calorie soda Americans now consume on average has dropped a whopping 25 percent since the late 1990s, The Upshot at The New York Times reported.

The decline of the fizzy beverage was triggered in the late ’90s by studies showing soda was largely to blame for America’s skyrocketing obesity levels. Then came the anti-soda public service announcements and both state-wide and corporate initiatives to make sugary drinks less available to children. The efforts appear to be have been effective: Since Gallup began asking Americans about their diet in 2002, the percentage of Americans who said they actively tried to avoid soda increased from 41 percent that year to 63 percent in 2014.

With the growing caution toward the sugary drinks—and toward diet sodas due to concern that aspartame can cause health problems—Coca-Cola is relying more than ever on bottled water sales. The company also raised its prices by 4 percent last quarter by “stealthily” packaging smaller amounts for the same price.

But perhaps surprisingly, the decline in soda drinking has not led to lower instances of obesity, which many experts say stems from eating too much and exercising too little. More than one third of American children and teens are overweight or obese, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nonwhite, low-income Americans aged 18 to 29 are most likely to be obese—the same demographic most likely to regularly drink soda.