By Perc Pineda, PhD
Where We Were: 2020
Non-alcoholic beverages purchased for off-premises consumption in the U.S. fell from $103.9 billion in Q1 2020 to $98.0 billion in Q2 2020. Consumption of mineral waters, soft drinks, and vegetable juices fell from $84.9 billion to $79.3 billion over the same period. While U.S. retail sales at food and beverage stores rose 12.2% in Q1 2020 from a year earlier, the consumption of mineral waters, soft drinks, and vegetable juices fell by 1.5% over the same period. The convenience of single-serve bottled beverages took a back seat when COVID-19 restrictions went into effect as most Americans stayed indoors.
As Americans slowly resumed activities in the summer months that required having a beverage on hand or within easy reach, non-alcoholic beverages purchased for off-premises consumption increased to $101.6 billion in the third quarter. Of that amount, $82.5 billion or 81.0% were mineral waters, soft drinks, and vegetable juices consumption. In the fourth quarter of 2020, consumption increased to $82.9 billion.
Where We Are: 2021
This year opened with non-alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption up by 2.6% in Q1 2021 from a year early. The consumption of mineral waters, soft drinks, and vegetable juices rose 2.4% over the same period to $87.0 billion.
The demand for bottled beverages in the U.S. continues to increase as the economy further reopens. While it can be expected that growth in plastic bottle manufacturing will continue at a stable rate, it is not without challenges. One of the realities of the pandemic is the increased usage of plastics in limiting the spread of COVID-19. However, plastics critics are using the increase of plastics consumption to paint a grim and biased outlook on plastics waste.
Sustainability is key for the future of beverage packaging materials. PLASTICS’ Market Watch Report on Bottling, which was released in the Fall of 2020 mentioned brand owners are now beginning to promote their packaging and sustainability story on their bottles and packages. Plastics bottles manufacturers and
 Non-alcoholic beverages purchased for off-premises is the total of (i) coffee, tea, and other beverage materials, and (ii) mineral waters, soft drinks, and vegetable juices. Data used in this article is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.