Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch
Although soda sales are down in the U.S., they are still rising, globally. More interesting is that while soda sales in general are down 3% and have been declining for nearly two decades, diet Coke and Pepsi are down much more – 7% here in the U.S.. Bottled water, energy drinks and ready to drink coffee and tea sales are up. People are becoming slightly more health conscious, or speedy. Maybe smarter too, as they are also drinking Coca-Cola’s Glaceau Smartwater.
Of Coca‑Cola alone, there are 1.9 billion servings sold every day, around the world, that’s one per person for more than a quarter of the global population, daily. Pretty incredible numbers, for something that is, in the balance, not healthy for us or the planet.
Some may welcome Coke’s new product Coca-Cola Life, a lower calorie, stevia sweetened alternative. In any case, you can bet that the soft drink companies will be rising to whatever challenges consumers give them (or appearing to anyway), whether it’s diet, health, water needs or environment. PepsCo and Coke’s plant based plastic bottles rest probably more in the appearances category.
Speaking of water needs, another Coke plant was closed in India recently, for extracting too much water and leaving polluted effluents in its wake. Plenty of the refreshing beverage is still being bottled there though, 57 more plants are in India, and more than 900 exist around the world. In some of those places, one might have to choose a bottle of soda over the unsafe water, just for something to drink.
The manufacturing of the containers alone – whether plastic, glass or aluminum – uses lots more water than the container contains, so this remains a consideration with sustainability issues for these corporations, and especially for the possibility of a future where clean water can be drunk by all.