Tampa, Fla. — It's official. Bottled water has overtaken carbonated soft drinks in consumption for the first time ever in the United States to become the largest beverage category.
The juggernaut that is bottled water consumption grew by 8.5 percent last year, the continuation of a years-long trend that also saw carbonated soft drink volume fall by 1.7 percent in 2016, according to Gary Hemphill, managing director and chief operating officer at Beverage Marketing Corp.
Hemphill's research and consulting firm studies beverage consumption and has been reporting on the continued growth of bottled water consumption that's now stretching into its 12th consecutive year.
“Bottled water has surpassed carbonated soft drinks as the No. 1 beverage category in the U.S. on a volume bases. Certainly not on a dollar basis — carbonated soft drinks are still larger on a dollar basis. But what people actually drink, bottled water is actually bigger than CSD. Which is really kind of remarkable when you consider bottled water's growth trajectory didn't really start until the early ‘90s,” Hemphill said.
About two-thirds of bottled water consumption comes from single-serve containers, which means that more and more water is being served in PET bottles.
Overall, plastic accounted for 41.2 percent of all beverage packaging units in 2016, up from 36.5 percent in 2012, Hemphill told the Packaging Conference in Tampa.
This gain comes at the expense of both metal cans, which fell from 40 percent of the packaging units in 2012 to 36.8 percent last year, and glass, which fell from 15.1 percent to 14.7 percent during the same time.