The survey, which asked 1,009 Americans which foods they actively try to include and avoid in their diets, showed 61% avoid regular soda, while 62% avoid diet soda. This makes soft drinks more likely to be avoided by Americans than sugar (50% avoid), fat (47% avoid) and salt (39% avoid).
Gallup said this is a “drastic change” from early in the century when Americans weren’t quite as concerned about soft drinks. In 2002, only 41% of Americans said they were trying to avoid soda. The number of residents who actively include soda in their diet dropped from 36% to 22%.
“Consumers may say they are trying to avoid soda because of the high-calorie and high-sugar content in regular soda, or the fears of artificial sweeteners used in diet soda,” the report said. “While some doctors agree that a can or two of soda a day isn't harmful to one's health, most advise that lower-calorie and natural beverages, such as skim milk or water, may be healthier choices.”
America's most avoided
The top three foods Americans said they actively try to avoid are diet soda, regular soda and sugar.
The number of Americans who avoid sugar has climbed from 43% in 2002 to 50% in 2015. While this may seem like a subtle shift, Gallup said other food groups, such as chicken, fruit and red meat, have stayed stable in their consumption since 2002.
Caffeine concerns, however, seem to have changed little: a separate recent Gallup poll showed 64% of US adults drink at least one cup of coffee per day, a figure the polling company called “remarkably similar” to 1999.
Creating more choice
A solution to Americans’ aversion to sugar may lie in more variety, as more reduced-sugar and sugar-free drinks continue to pop up on the market.
Tracey Halliday, spokesperson for the American Beverage Association, told BeverageDaily the industry is trying to give consumers more choice beyond "traditional soft drinks." A greater variety of package sizes with easily understandable information is important for drawing in new customers, she added.
“And with our latest initiative – Balance Calories – we are working toward a common goal of reducing beverage calories in the American diet by 20% by 2025,” she said.