The soft drink industry makes approximately $60 billion in annual sales, but that number may just fall flat this year, as bottled water is on track to outsell soda for the first time.
A combination of convenience and fear of water from the tap has created a massive demand for the bottled beverage in lieu of its carbonated competitor.
The biggest U.S. bottled-water companies are saying that people have switched from carbonated beverages because of the health benefits and convenience of their products, but the projected increase in future sales, unfortunately, has to do with other issues as well.
In actuality, the expected increase in sales is largely due to a crumbling infrastructure.
Water crises in Michigan, Washington D.C., and New Jersey have Americans on high alert to the state of the nation’s decaying pipes.
At least $384 billion in improvements is needed to maintain and replace essential parts of the country’s water infrastructure through 2030, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
To make matters worse, The Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental watchdog organization, estimates that at the nation’s current rate of spending on this issue, the numbers should be reached by 2290.
“Concerns in places like Flint do bring bottled water to people’s attention as a safe and sealed source of drinking water,” said Jane Lazgin, a spokeswoman for Nestle Waters North America, the largest bottled-water maker.
Fortunately, there are smaller issues to tackle in the meantime.
Lawmakers across the country are aiming for people’s wallets in an attempt to reduce consumption of the sugary, carbonated drinks that America seems to love.
In fact, Philadelphia is on track to be the first city in America to impose a soda tax. The tax, which will go into effect on January 1, 2017, will place an additional 1.5 cent tax per ounce of soda purchased.
The tax is a gamble. Many are skeptical — at best — of its ability to cut sugary drinks out of people’s lives by attacking their wallets.
Soda tax or not, it hasn’t stopped people from consuming the beverages. In fact, one man was recently arrested in Allentown, PA when he was reported to have been seen bathing in soda. Granted, he was later charged with possession of a controlled substance, but a soda tax won’t stop anyone with an agenda.
Per capita consumption of soda has already been dropping, and when combined with the concern about the nation’s water supply, it may start dropping faster than ever.
The decrease in soda consumption hasn’t hurt any major companies, though, because most of them produce both products.
But in places like Flint, people are “often left with no option but to have bottled water,” said Marc Yaggi, the director of Waterkeeper Alliance.
“Bottled water might be a band-aid solution for situations like Flint,” said John Stewart, deputy director of Corporate Accountability International, “but it is definitely not a long-term solution for providing daily drinking water needs”.