Bottled water sales outpace soda for first time in U.S.

Bottled water overtook soda as the No. 1 drink sold in the U.S. last year, according to one metric.

Americans drank an average of 39.3 gallons of bottled water in 2016 and 38.5 gallons of carbonated soft drinks, according to research and consulting firm Beverage Marketing Corp. In 2015, bottled water was at 36.5 gallons while soda was at 39 gallons.

The shift is largely fueled by growing evidence of the health impact of sugary drinks and reports of lead contamination in the water supply of a number of municipalities, according to beverage industry experts. 

“Bottled water effectively reshaped the beverage marketplace,” Michael C. Bellas, CEO of Beverage Marketing Corp., stated in a press release. Sales of bottled water have grown every year over the past four decades, with the exception of 2008 and 2009.

Other industry trackers define drink categories differently and so may see the water-soda crossover at different times. BeverageMarketing counts sparkling waters as bottled waters and excludes energy drinks from the sodas category. The reverse is true for another tracker, Beverage Digest, which projects bottled water will surpass soda this year.

Of course, just because Americans are drinking more water doesn’t mean soda companies are suffering. The top two bottled water brands, Dasani and Aquafina, are owned by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, respectively. The two companies captured 26 percent of bottled water revenue last year, according to the Wall Street Journal.