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.
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- 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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Industry Tactics from “Coke Leaks”
Codeveloped with Ninjas for Health
Internal executive emails detailing Coca-Cola’s coordinated global strategies to defeat sugary drink policies and influence dietary guidelines were leaked to the public in fall 2016. The emails confirm what public health advocates have said for years – the beverage industry is following the tobacco industry’s playbook to fight health regulations worldwide. This research brief pulls quotes from the leaked emails to illustrate the soda industry’s tactics to reference in your education efforts.
Raising revenue, cutting costs, saving lives
The benefits of sugary drink taxes in America’s major cities
As of November, 2016, six U.S. cities and one urban county have adopted soda taxes as a way to raise revenue for important community priorities while encouraging residents to shift away from sugary drinks that contribute to diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health issues. In the process they are saving tens of millions in health care costs.
But how great an impact can a city-by-city approach have on the nation’s health? Substantial, as this report will show. Healthy Food America (HFA) asked researchers at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health to use their evidence-based, peer-reviewed computer model to evaluate the impact should 15 more of the nation’s largest cities (with legal authority to do so) adopt a sugary drinks tax of one cent per ounce. Here’s what they found (see their full brief here):
- With a population of 15.3 million people in the 15 cities, the tax would cut diabetes rates by an average 6 percent and prevent nearly 115,000 of cases of obesity;
- As a result, the nation would avoid $759 million in health care costs over ten years, 3,683 premature deaths would be averted and tens of thousands of people would live longer lives with less illness;
- All while raising $600 million a year for community priorities, from initiatives to prevent chronic disease to promoting access to healthy food to providing universal pre-kindergarten and improving schools and recreation centers.
The Harvard researchers also modelled the potential benefits from sugary drink taxes in the six jurisdictions that adopted them this year – San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, CA; Boulder, CO; Cook County, IL; and Philadelphia, PA. Adding the projected health gains for these six places with a combined population of 8.2 million to those of the 15 cities above, we would see:
- 23.5 million people benefit.
- Health care savings of well over $1.2 billion over ten years,
- Nearly $1 billion a year in revenue to help prevent disease and improve life chances for people of all backgrounds,
- 3,683 premature deaths averted,
- Declining diabetes rates, 173,220 fewer cases of obesity, and longer lives, unburdened by preventable disease, for tens of thousands of Americans.
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CHARTS AND GRAPHS
A Roadmap for Successful Sugary Drink Tax Campaigns
A Roadmap for Successful Sugary Drink Tax Campaigns is designed to help you and other advocates and policymakers learn how sugary drink taxes work, how to lay the groundwork with education and policy campaigns, find a political path to passage, estimate revenue and form a winning coalition. You’ll also get tips about messaging and the opposition arguments you’re likely to counter. The guide is informed by interviews with veteran campaigners including coalition leaders, political consultants, campaign managers, legal analysts, public health officials, city executives, communications experts, and grassroots advocates.
Best Practices in Designing Local Taxes on Sugary Drinks
Best Practices in Designing Local Taxes on Sugary Drinks is a guide to help communities design sugary drink taxes for the maximum health benefit. It identifies critical policy considerations such as legal, administrative, and political factors. The guide was informed by a panel of public health, legal, and advocacy professionals with expertise in various aspects of sugary drink taxes. We hope it will help answer the political and administrative questions about a sugary drink tax initiative in your community or state.