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The Big Gulp: For Americans, It's Soda, Water and Beer


With summer in full swing, now is a good time to look at what Americans are drinking to slake their thirst.

Judging by 2010 per capita figures, soda is still far and away the number one choice, with the average American gulping down an incredible 45 gallons of the fizzy stuff over the course of a year, despite all the bad news about how soda is linked to a host of health problems.

In second place is bottled water (28 gallons for each of us), followed by beer at about 21 gallons -- or 168 pints -- per capita.

The fact that we're still drinking so much liquid candy, as health experts call soft drinks, is  pretty depressing, but there are a few positive signs.

The figures, provided by the Beverage Marketing Corporation, reveal that Americans are sipping about six gallons less soda than we were five years ago, and drinking more bottled water.

Beer has also slipped slightly in popularity, down about a half-gallon per person. The publication Advertising Age noted that although beer still ranks as the most-consumed alcoholic beverage, "spirits and wine, perceived by some to be more healthful, have been gaining ground in the past few years."

Thirsty for more? Sip on these beverage factoids:

*Got (less) milk? We drank about 20 gallons per capita last year, down about a gallon from 2005.

* More tea, please. Although it still trails coffee, we're drinking more tea than we were five years ago (10.3 gallons versus 9.9 gallons).

*A shorter coffee break? In 2005, each of us drank 18.8 gallons of java; last year we were slightly less caffeinated at 18.5 gallons.

*We need more energy. The energy drink category, although tiny compared to soda, has more than doubled in the past five years. Last year the average American drank 1.2 gallons of energy drinks.

*Billions on advertising. Why is soda number one? Hmmm, could it be all that advertising? As Advertising Age pointed out,  it's no coincidence that three of the biggest budgets in beverage advertising belong to soda brands.

According to the industry publication, Coke spent $267 million last year, Pepsi shelled out $154 million and Dr Pepper poured $104 million into ads.

Beer advertising also commanded major marketing dollars -- $1.25 billion for all brands, with Anheuser-Busch the biggest spender at $555 million.

Anyone for a tall, cool glass of...water?

Photo credit: PaysImaginaire via

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