Soda vs. Starbucks: Are Americans Really Having Less Sugar?

January 11, 2017

Former soda drinkers haven't given up sugar. They are just going to Starbuck's instead.

It’s no secret that soda consumption is decreasing, with the widely accepted reason being that Americans are turning away from sugary beverages. A recent article in Business Insider explores why sugar might not actually be the main reason, and in fact might not be a reason at all.

The article points out that a new competitor is stealing away business from soda. According to RBC analyst Nik Modi quoted in Business Insider,"Starbucks has taken the carbonated soda occasion," noting that many of the coffee chain's beverages are more caloric and sugar-packed than top soda brands.

And he is absolutely correct. A 16 oz. coke has 190 calories and 52 grams of sugar (the equivalent of 13 teaspoons!). Compare that with the following popular beverages from Starbucks (all 16 oz.):

  • Java Chip Frappuchino, 440 calories and 67 grams sugar.
  • Iced White Chocolate Mocha, 450 calories and 54 grams sugar.
  • Green Tea Creme Frappuccino Blended Crème, 400 calories and 65 grams sugar.
  • White Chocolate Mocha, 470 calories and 59 grams sugar.

Modi also points out that, "Twenty years ago, people used to wake up with a Diet Coke or a Diet Pepsi. At around two o'clock, they'd have another and take a break. Walk in front of a Starbucks at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. and tell me how long the lines are." 

With the rise of Starbucks, coffee has seen tremendous growth; Business Insider reports that coffee has gone from a $7 billion annually the past four years to a $9 billion business (for the 52 weeks ending May 28, 2016, according to Nielsen data.) Meanwhile, soda sales in the US per capita have dropped 25 percent since 1998

What does this mean for your store? Shoppers still want the sweet stuff, but don’t want to be associated with the bad PR soda has been getting lately. Do your shoppers a favor and have your prepared foods team, chefs, and dietitians work together to make a drink menu that is fit for dessert but doesn’t go overboard on sugar. There are plenty of sugar alternatives that you have stocked on your shelves: stevia, monk fruit, lucuma, coconut water, fruit, dates, maple syrup and more.