Feature

How water defeated soda to become America's number one drink

Who needs a soda ban? Americans are switching to water anyway

For now, New Yorkers can continue to chug as many 64-ounce jugs of Mountain Dew as they want, thanks to a last-minute ruling by the New York Supreme Court calling the city's limits on sugary drinks "arbitrary and capricious." It was a major defeat for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but he can find solace in a new report that says water has overtaken soda as America's favorite drink.

Yes, H2O, nature's answer to Crystal Pepsi, has finally reclaimed the title it held for millions of years as our preferred liquid of choice, according to The Associated Press. A new report by Beverage Digest shows that the average American drinks 58 gallons of water a year, a 38 percent increase from 1998's average of 42 gallons. Back then, the numbers were reversed: Americans quaffed 54 gallons of soda a year, 23 percent more than the 44 gallons we drink now.

How did our society get to the point where choosing a free staple of life over fizzy high-fructose corn syrup makes headlines?

Like many terrible things, it has its roots in the '80s. That's when the Cola Wars began, with Coca-Cola and Pepsi both pouring millions into competing ads. Mark Bittman of The New York Times points out that the Cola Wars never really stopped, citing the $50 million that Pepsi gave Beyonce to support her "creative projects," which he calls "an odd move for a politically aware woman who, with her husband, Jay-Z, raised money for President Obama and supported Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, meant to encourage children to exercise."

It turns out, though, that corporate marketing may also be America's salvation. Following a concerted push by beverage companies to convince consumers to buy water in a bottle, as opposed to turning on the old tap, the consumption of bottled water has skyrocketed to 21 gallons a year per capita. Furthermore, public awareness of soda's deleterious health effects has become more widespread.

Now, apparently, we all love water again. But don't feel bad for our old pals Coca-Cola and Pepsi. They profited handsomely from the water-bottle boom, owning 13 percent and 10 percent of the market, respectively.

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