Sugary Drinks in America: Who's Drinking What and How Much?



Over the last two decades, the sugary drink landscape has been changing. Between a plethora of new drinks on the market and reported changes in beverage sales, many people are confused or concerned about the current state of sugary drink sales and consumption patterns. This report describes the consumption and sales of sugary drinks in the United States over time and among demographic subgroups. Specifically, the report defines sugary drinks, describes health issues related to sugary drink consumption, and answers questions about how many sugary drinks are being consumed in the US and whether consumption patterns differ by age, race/ethnicity, and income.


Key Points

  • A majority of Americans consume at least one sugary drink on a given day.
  • Overall, sugary drink consumption has decreased from its peak in 2000 but flattened in recent years. While the most recent self-reported consumption data show that consumption may have dropped between 2012 and 2014, industry sales data do not show a recent decline. More current self-report data and additional sales data are needed to confirm whether or not sugary drink consumption is trending downward again.
  • Sales and consumption of sugary soda and fruit drinks are down, while other categories such as sports drinks, energy drinks, teas, and coffee are increasing, partially mitigating the large soda decline. However, soda is still the dominant sugary drink, making up 65 percent of sugary drink sales. Consumption and sales of diet beverages are also in decline.
  • Sugary drink consumption varies by age, race/ethnicity, and income:
    • Adolescents and young adults are the heaviest consumers of sugary drinks. Even young infants and toddlers drink a lot of sugary drinks, primarily fruit drinks.
    • Consumption has gone down in all age groups, with largest declines in 2-5 year olds and 12-19 year olds.
    • Differences by race/ethnicity are larger in adults than in children. White adults are less likely to consume sugary drinks on a given day and consume fewer calories from sugary drinks than Black or Hispanic adults. While White children are less likely to drink sugary drinks on a given day than Black or Hispanic children, calories consumed from sugary drinks by children do not vary much by race/ethnicity. Asian American children and adults are the least likely to consume sugary drinks.
    • Low-income Americans consume more sugary drinks than those with higher incomes. This disparity has persisted over time, and the gap may be widening by some measures.




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