It might not come as a surprise to hear that bottled water sales will soon outstrip those of soda for the first time ever. After all, companies have been pushing calorie-free drinks as alternatives to the sweet stuff for some time as consumer preferences have changed. But bottled water’s burgeoning popularity isn’t just about cutting calories.
The big names in bottled water like Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group attribute the switch from carbonated beverages to the fact that they offer calorie-free beverages that are just as portable as Mountain Dew, Bloomberg reports. (Of course, they make money either way, as they all make soft drinks as well.)
And the numbers support that, somewhat: consumption of carbonated soft drinks hit a 30-year low in 2015, Beverage Digest reported in March, while Americans will drink 27.4 gallons of bottled water each this year, which is 1.2 more gallons than soda, according to Euromonitor figures noted by Bloomberg.
That shift in consumption habits isn’t entirely why sales will go up, some experts say. Rather, it has a lot to do with decaying pipes that lead to water contaminated with lead in many parts of the country. That includes Flint, MI; Washington, D.C.; and Newark, NJ.
“Concerns in places like Flint do bring bottled water to people’s attention as a safe and sealed source of drinking water,” a spokeswoman for Nestle Waters North America tells Bloomberg.
One issue with that is that bottled water costs a lot more than tap water, and as many critics say, it isn’t as environmentally friendly. In some places in the country, however, drinking tap water just isn’t possible.
“People feeling unsafe about their drinking water clearly leads them to drink it out of a bottle,” said Ali Dibadj, a consumer analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
Despite the prevalence of bottled water, the nation’s infrastructure will have to be fixed, experts say.
“Bottled water might be a band-aid solution for situations like Flint, but it is definitely not a long-term solution for providing daily drinking water needs,” John Stewart, deputy director of Corporate Accountability International told Bloomberg.