More water and less fizzy drinks lead to ‘unprecedented calorie reduction’ in US diet, market study says

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bottled water Soft drink

Photo: iStock/Filmwork
Photo: iStock/Filmwork
As US bottled water consumption increased, “trillions of calories from [the] American diet” were cut, a new study by the Beverage Marketing Corporation has found. But is there still space for other soft beverages?

The “trillion”​ number, of course, is only a projection, as obesity is still widespread in the US. A report​ from the USDA said that 34% of US adults were obese. The epidemic is often blamed on a high-calorie intake​ that isn’t offset by enough physical activity, and a New York Times article​ revealed that in 2010, Americans consumed 20% more calories compared to 1970.

Much of these calories are believed to come from America’s craving for sweet fizzy drinks, so much so that state governments are pushing for legislation to restrict soda consumption​.

On the other hand, an overall increase of interest in a healthier and active lifestyle​ has pushed an increase in bottled water sales and led to declines for carbonated soft drinks​. “Bottled water’s ascent has been driven in large part by America’s move to healthier beverage choices, which has effectively resulted in calorie savings for all Americans,” ​said Michael Bellas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Beverage Marketing Corporation.

Thus, the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) concluded that “Americans have collectively cut 61 to 68 trillion calories over the past 15 years” ​by switching to bottled water as their bottled beverage of choice.

Projecting the calorie cuts

In its report Bottled Water’s Impact on U.S. Caloric Intake​, BMC attempted to quantify the calories consumers have saved in the period of 2000-2015.

For each year, a team used BMC's database to gather the total annual volume consumed of bottled water, carbonated soft drinks, fruit beverages, sports drinks, energy drinks, and all forms of milk.

They further calculated the caloric value of beverage categories (for newer data, they were able to specify it per brand). Then, they multiplied the annual cumulative increase in bottled water per capita in gallons for each year from 2000 by the average annual liquid beverage caloric per gallon content to get a number of how many annual calories have been saved.

“Since a small amount of LRB switching may have been to new emerging categories such as coconut waters, HPP juices, cold brewed coffees or even to alcoholic beverages or tap water, BMC conservatively discounted each year's per capita LRB calorie figure before arriving at a range of caloric savings based upon consumers switching their more caloric LRB consumption to zero calorie bottled water,”​ the report said. 

Sparkling water sales go up

According to Euromonitor data​, sales of carbonated water are projected to surge 27.5% to $1.1 billion in 2020 compared to $797 million in 2015. This has led to a boom of unsweetened, carbonated water product launches. 

One example is New York-based Tickle Water​, whose founder Heather McDowell started as a response to "make water fun" ​for children. The company offers four choices of carbonated water in transparent cans, decorated with whimsically illustrated animals.

Tickle water comes unflavored, or in three unsweetened options: Green Apple, Watermelon, and Cola.

Is there space for sweet fizzy drinks?

According to Gary Hemphill, managing director of research at BMC, carbonated soft drinks will still be a favorite for years to come.

“In spite of volume declines in recent years, they still remain hugely popular with many consumers,”​ he told FoodNavigator-USA. “Even with bottled water likely to surpass carbonated soft drinks sometime over the next 12 months, they are likely to remain more popular than any other beverage in the U.S. aside from water by far for the foreseeable future.”

And it’s not just bottled water that’s seeing growth; according to Hemphill, there is also growth in sports drinks, energy drinks, and bottled and canned teas and coffees. To beverage manufacturers, Hemphill encourages manufacturers to “respond to the changing needs of consumers who today seek healthier refreshment and variety in a convenient package.”

The three mega-trends to survive a rapidly shifting beverage market landscape are health and wellness, variety, and convenience, Hemphill added, saying: “Marketers that can respond to these trends have a better shot than most at being successful today.”

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