WASHINGTON, DCIn a report that bodes well for the future of U.S. carbonated-beverage consumption, the Commerce Department announced Monday that there is still plenty of soda available across the nation.
According to department findings, current U.S. soda-availability levels stand at an all-time high, with nearly all major soda-penetration indicesincluding manufacturing, bottling and retail-outlet distributionoperating at maximum capacity.
In addition, the national Liters To Citizens Ratio, widely considered the leading indicator of overall U.S. soda health, stands at an unprecedented 26.4 to 1.
"Americans have one less thing to worry about today. We are thrilled to issue America's soda supply a glowing report card," said jubilant Secretary of Commerce William Daley. "With soda access, convenience and affordability all at unprecedented levels, the threat of soda depletion has been virtually eradicated from our great nation."
The study comes as welcome news to many soda-industry observers who, in the past, feared that U.S. soda reserves might prove insufficient to meet the refreshment demands of the 21st century.
"Thank goodness there are no soda worries on the immediate horizon," said Stanford University professor Kyle Gurnee, a lifelong Pepsi advocate and frequent contributor to The Economist. "Many Americans take for granted the tremendous number of thirst-quenching options available in this country, but the truth is, the soft-drink availability we enjoy here is something people in other nations can only dream of. Consider the harsh reality of life in a place like Albania, to name but one example, where delicious carbonated beverages are, frighteningly, not within arm's reach at any given moment. Just imagine what it would be like."
According to the report, in 1998, the average American is never more than 30 feet from soda at any given time. Further, in addition to its tremendous availability and affordability, U.S. soda is also almost always chilled, thanks to refrigerated-display-case and thermal-insulated-portable-cooler technology that is second to none in the world.
"When it comes to the nuts and bolts of keeping soda ice-cold and conveniently located, America is truly ahead of the pack," Daley said. "No other nation, including Japan, boasts a soda-coolness-preservation infrastructure comparable to America's state-of-the-art point-of-purchase refrigeration network. In most parts of the U.S., it is actually considered unnecessary and impractical to add ice, so cold is our soda served."
The report went on to note that, as with overall U.S. soda output, the number of ounces in the average individual serving size has steadily increased since 1970, with personal soda receptacles as large as one liter now commonplace in most markets. In the two years since Pepsi's introduction of the 20-ounce "Big Slam" alone, the report noted, the nation's median soda-container volume has risen a stunning 41 percent.
"Thirty years ago, a small glass was sufficient for holding all the soda anyone would want to consume in a single sitting," said soda supplier James L. Carlisle of the Coca-Cola Corporation. "By 1975, that amount had risen due to a new standard, the 12-ounce can. Today, it is not unusual for a single soda-lover to drink an entire two-liter bottle in one sitting."
For years, the rising single-serving-size rate prompted widespread calls for an across-the-board reduction in U.S. soda consumption. But given the robust state of current U.S. soda production, all but a tiny handful of Americans are confident that the nation's soda providers will be able to meet not only the current demand, but whatever increased demand may come as drink sizes and per capita thirst continue to grow in the years to come.
"Fortunately," Carlisle said, "given the thriving nature of the current U.S. soda supply, not only can American consumers drink their favorite sodas more often, but they can help themselves to greater amounts each time they enjoy these delicious and refreshing sparkling beverages."
Added Carlisle: "Would you like a beverage?"