Soda, once the quintessential American beverage, has had a long and storied history within our society. From humble beginnings as a medicinal tonic to the evolution of Coca-Cola as a global voice of unity, soda has made its mark on much of our culture. But in the ever more health-conscious America, soda sales are plummeting as consumers search for a healthier alternative.
For ten straight years, soda consumption has dropped. Soda sales decreased by 1.5 billion cases between 2014 and 2004, when soda sales hit an all-time high. The drop is due in large part to increasing evidence that the sugar-loaded drinks contribute to a number of health issues. Even McDonald's is working to ease soda consumption in Happy Meals, and the company happily reported that 48% of the meals were ordered without a soda between July 2014 and May 2015.
In response, many within the industry are turning towards craft sodas as the product of the future. Craft soda producers, like The Appalachian Brewing Company, create a product that is made in smaller batches with higher-quality ingredients. However, despite the increased attention to detail, the products still have an enormous amount of sugar. The trick with craft soda is to change the perception of the product from an everyday beverage to a once-in-a-while treat as to mitigate the health problems associated with it.
Sparkling waters are the category that seems to be primed to replace soda at American dinner tables. Complete with the carbonation loved by so many Americans without the additional sugars or calories, brands like Perrier and San Pellegrino have seen huge increases in sales, even outmaneuvering "functional" waters like Vitaminwater, according to data from Euromonitor. As these brands grow, I think it's safe to assume they will become quite marketable at fast food restaurants and at grocery stores.
In order for beverage makers to remain relevant within the expanding "healthy" America they will need to pivot away from their old cash cow. Soda brands may have lead the way for many years in this country, but the future is pointing towards sparkling waters as America's new favorite beverage.