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America's surprising beverage of choice

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Big Soda won the latest battle on sugary drinks when a New York Supreme Court judge halted New York City's ban on large sugary drinks. But when it comes to U.S. consumers in the beverage industry, Big Soda is losing.

And, somewhat surprisingly, they're losing to one of the least innovative (but most important) drinks: water. The Associated Press reports:

Americans now drink an average of 44 gallons of soda a year, a 17 percent drop from the peak in 1998. Over the same time, the average amount of water people drink has increased 38 percent to about 58 gallons a year. Bottled water has led that growth, with consumption nearly doubling to 21 gallons a year.

It's a role reversal from soda's peak in 1998 when Americans were drinking 54 gallons of soda per year and only 42 gallons of water -- that's consumption of tap, bottled and sparkling water, along with flavored and enhanced water products. And in the next decade, AP says, bottled water -- which has seen consumption levels rise every year for the past two decades -- is expected to overtake soda.

Health backlash has been one of the main factors pushing people -- and cities like New York -- away from soda. And it's surely a blow to the industry because soda drinks are more profitable than bottled water. But don't feel too bad for them, the U.S. isn't their only market. The industry has now set its sights on developing countries. And as the International Business Times points out, "low- and middle-income countries are accelerating their consumption of soda and processed foods at a pace that's faster than the historical increase of the same food products in high-income countries."

Yep, Big Gulps for everyone.

America's new love: water [Associated Press]

Photo: Flickr/stevendepolo

— By on March 11, 2013, 9:00 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure