February 8, 2016
Seltzer and sparkling water, particularly those high-end brands from France and Italy, were big in the 80s before diet sodas and sports drinks became the low-to-no calorie drink of choice.
But recently, there has been a resurgence.
It’s very likely that sparkling water has taken over fridge space you once reserved for soda. It’s no surprise really, given that we’re an increasingly health-conscious nation (in some ways at least). Instead, of a sugar rush, we’re avoiding the diet versions because of artificial sweeteners and cooling off with a rush of effervescent bubbles.
We weren’t always like this. I mean, soda consumption went up like crazy from the ‘60s until ‘90s. But then we wised up a bit, and now it looks like we’re finally putting our wallets where our mouths are.
Cracks in the Soda Empire
While Americans still annually gulp down an astounding 12 billion gallons of the syrupy sin, soda consumption has fallen each year for more than a decade.
It’s practically at its lowest level of intake since 1986, according to The Washington Post, and according to The New York Times, in the last 20 years, regular soda sales (not the low-fat or zero-calorie business) have decreased by 25%.
The Seltzer Skyrocket
While we started turning down soda as an option long ago, there wasn’t exactly a lot of variety in the sparkling water market to replace it. That has certainly changed with new companies like LaCroix gaining ground.
Between 2009 and 2014, bottled carbonated water jumped by 56.4%. From 2010 to 2014, and sales of Sparkling Ice alone went from $27 million to $550 million. Between 2009 and 2015, LaCroix Sparkling Water sales tripled.
Big Soda’s Next Move
Given all this, it shouldn’t raise eyebrows that The Coca-Cola Company announced in last year’s Q4 that it would begin selling a carbonated version of its Smartwater brand. The company isn’t entirely threatened by still water, but carbonated water, flavored especially, can in some ways replace some of what we as a culture enjoy about soda in the first place.
The numbers have been showing for a good spell, which is why Coca-Cola launched carbonated flavored water under their Dasani brand in 2013. The same mentality goes for PepsiCo, which, also in last year’s Q4, told the public it’d be launching flavored sparkling waters under its Aquafina brand this year.
Is Seltzer As Healthy As We Thought?
Seltzer recently made headlines when an article in The Atlantic mentioned that even flavorless carbonated beverages, including Perrier, may be just as bad for your teeth’s enamel as regular soda. The culprit - carbonic acid.
Carbonic acid is what makes sparkling water sparkle, and while the acid is mild, it’s still acid. If you want to be particularly careful, avoid the citrus flavored varieties which pack additional citric acid. The good news is it’s still far better than your regular sodas, and you’d have to drink a lot for there to be any significant issue – though we know some people with LaCroix addictions.
Regardless, the times are changing, and it looks like sodas sun will continue to set just as sparkling waters begins to rise, taste buds be damned.