Editor's Note: The rise and fall of diet soda
For years, when my husband and I made out a grocery list, diet soda was a natural part of it. It was one of those household staples, like bread and eggs.
Then we had kids, who we tried to steer away from soft drinks – largely because if you’ve ever tried to put a toddler to bed a few hours after he’s had a caffeinated beverage, you deserve some kind of award.
So we dropped the sodas off the shopping list, and, surprisingly, didn’t really miss them much. Now, we tend to buy pop if we’re having a party, or to satisfy the occasional craving. Our household’s pretty boring; mostly, all four of us drink water.
But I felt a little more normal after reading that we may be more mainstream than I realized. Sales of carbonated beverages as a whole have been dropping for nine straight years, and for the last three years, sales of diet sodas has fallen off even more sharply than their sugary counterparts.
According to Wells Fargo, sales of diet sodas fell 7 percent last year alone, while sales of regular soda fell 2 percent.
This is even as companies have come out with those line-straddling, 10-calorie sodas, which seem intended to be diet sodas for people who don’t want to say they drink diet soda. And it’s happened during both the heavily-publicized obesity epidemic and the skinny-jeans craze, which is saying something, since they were originally developed to cater to those trying to lose weight or maintain a slim figure.
The regular soda sales dropoff can probably be partially attributed to the rocketing popularity of energy drinks. I know plenty of teenagers who skip the Mountain Dew in favor of a Monster.
But I know plenty of adults who confess an addiction to Diet Coke. Nutritionist Rachel Bell told ABC News she used to hear clients say, “I only drink diet soda, so it’s fine.” Now, they say, “I eat generally OK, but I have to confess I drink diet soda.”
I wonder if that three-year dropoff has anything to do with a discovery by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center that test subjects who drank diet pop saw their waistlines grow five times faster than those who didn’t drink the low-cal beverages. I’m guessing that knocked it out of the arsenal of more than a couple of people trying to shed pounds.
It’s gotten so intense now that Coca-Cola ran a few ads late last year defending diet soda, telling people the artificial sweeteners they use are safe.
But being as Coca-Cola also owns or has interest in brands like Minute Maid, Dasani, Monster and Vitamin Water, it seems their bases are pretty well covered.
Even in my healthy-eating zeal, I don’t really have a problem with diet soda. I still order it when I eat out. But it’s a lot cheaper to leave it out of the grocery cart, and like I said: I don’t miss it. I have other vices – like ice cream and wine – I’d rather indulge.
And I’m no anti-caffeine zealot – I love my coffee. A lot.
Whatever you’re drinking, settle in someplace warm, turn the page and enjoy your MidWeek.