Pop, cola, soda — no matter you call it, there is no denying that Americans love soft drinks. This favorite carbonated beverage has been thrilling taste buds around the world since the 1800s, and in 2016, carbonated soft drinks accounted for 80.6 billion dollars in sales. The soda industry powerhouses Coca-Cola and Pepsi consistently rank in the top 20 most popular brands worldwide and offer sodas in almost every flavor — from the classic smooth and sweet cola to the more unique ginger lime and spicy cinnamon.
While there are hundreds of soft drinks available, a few rise to the top as America’s most popular soda brands. Here are our top 10 soda brands and some interesting facts you may not know about your soda of choice.
The top-selling soft drink at Beverage Universe is one you may not have heard of unless you are a true diet soda fanatic. Tab was the first diet soda created by the Coca-Cola company in 1963 — two decades prior to the release of the now hugely popular Diet Coke. Recognizable by its signature pink can, Tab was marketed primarily to weight-conscious young women with commercials that urged them to stay slim.
When Tab first hit the market, its only competitor was the low-calorie soft drink Diet Rite cola. Tab quickly gained popularity in the 1960s and 70s, and several different flavors were released. Tab even took the silver screen when the hero Marty McFly ordered one in the 1985 film Back to The Future.
However, Tab took a major hit when Diet Coke was released in 1983. Because Diet Coke was formulated to taste the same as sweet and sugary non-diet sodas, the popularity of the new diet soda skyrocketed. Tab, on the other hand, had a clean and tart flavor that did not imitate the taste of classic cola. Although it may have led to the soda’s downfall in the 80s, the unique citrus flavor of Tab may also be the reason it has developed a devoted cult following that remains today. Coca-Cola continues to produce smaller batches of Tab that are consumed by pockets of dedicated fans across the country. If you have never tried a Tab, we recommend you give it a taste for yourself.
2. Diet Coke
In the late 1970s, the popularity of low and no-calorie drinks was rising, so the Coca-Cola company needed to do something to keep up with consumer trends. Although the Coca-Cola trademark had not yet been extended to another brand, the company took a risk and created Diet Coke.
Prior to its release in 1983, Diet Coke was advertised in a flashy commercial filmed in New York City that featured the Rockettes performing at Radio City Music Hall. By the end of 1983, Diet Coke had become the most popular diet soft drink in the U.S. and the most popular soft drink for women. Diet Coke has consistently ranked in the top three most popular sodas in the U.S., according to an annual report by Beverage Digest. There are now twelve variations of Diet Coke, including Fiesty Cherry, Ginger Lime, Twisted Mango and Zesty Blood Orange.
3. Coca-Cola Classic
Coca-Cola and Pepsi are infamous rivals in the soft drink world, defining the industry with the sweet, fizzy flavor of their classic dark cola beverages. However, Coke was first to grip the market in 1886 and has consistently held the number one spot as America’s most popular soda — with Pepsi nipping at its heels in second place. Coca-Cola is also ranked as the number one most popular brand in the world and is purchased about 5.8 billion times per year, according to 2018 Brand Footprint report from Kantar Worldpanel.
The Coca-Cola company also earned a spot on Forbes’s list of the most valuable brands in the world in 2018. Coming in at sixth place with a brand value of 57.3 billion dollars, Coca-Cola is the only food or beverage company to crack the top ten. The brand’s namesake soda and our number three best-seller, Coca-Cola Classic, holds the largest share of the carbonated beverage market at 17.6 percent.
Below are a few more fun facts about America’s best-loved soft drink:
- Coca-Cola was created in 1886 by a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia and was sold for just five cents a glass.
- Coke has been featured in hundreds of films and television shows, including the 1933 classic King Kong, the science fiction thriller Blade Runner from 1982, the holiday favorite It’s A Wonderful Life and the popular Netflix series Stranger Things.
- If you tasted one of the nearly 3,900 beverages made by the Coca-Cola brand each day, it would take over 10.5 years to try them all.
- In 1985, the Coca-Cola Space Can boarded the Space Shuttle Challenger to become the first soda consumed in space.
4. Diet Sunkist Orange
Sunkist Orange Soda was born in the late 1970s when Mark Stevens of the Sunkist company saw the potential to expand into the soft drink industry. Sunkist was, and remains today, the largest citrus cooperative in the U.S. In 1978, when Sunkist Orange Soda was created, Sunkist produced nearly half of the oranges sold in the country.
To promote the new orange soda, Sunkist chose blue and orange branding and used the popular Beach Boys’ song “Good Vibrations” as the soda’s theme song. The sunny California beach vibe of Sunkist Orange Soda quickly made it one of the most popular orange sodas on the market. This fizzy citrus favorite is now available in Diet Sunkist Orange, which ranks as our fourth most popular soft drink.
5. Canada Dry Ginger Ale
In Toronto in 1904, John McLaughlin created Canada Dry Ginger Ale when he was just 25 years old. The young pharmacist saw potential in the soda pop industry and began selling fruity carbonated beverages with names like Happy Hooligan and the Japanese Thirst Killer. McLaughlin’s soda fountain had produced a spicy and dark ginger ale for a long time, but it was not until 1904 that he produced the paler and lighter Canada Dry Ginger Ale that consumers know today.
This ginger ale closely resembled ginger beer, and Canada Dry quickly gained popularity. During prohibition, the spicy ginger soda was popular as a mixer to cover the bitterness of homemade liquors. In honor of its Northern roots, the soda was first marketed with a beaver and map of Canada on the label. The label changed to the familiar crown and shield emblem in 1907 when the soda was appointed to the Royal Household of the Governor General of Canada.
6. Sprite Zero
Another result of the perpetual rivalry between the Coca-Cola and Pepsi companies, Sprite was created by Coca-Cola in 1961 to compete with Pepsi’s 7-Up. The lemon-lime soda was smartly branded with bright green colors and a bottle featuring unique dimples. Due to its bold look and successful marketing, Sprite quickly left 7-Up in the dust.
Sprite is now advertised as a thirst-quenching drink, with commercials featuring popular celebrities and athletes, including Drake and LeBron James. Along with Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Sprite also boasts a spot as one of the top 20 most popular brands worldwide.
The zero-calorie variation, Sprite Zero, was first produced in 1974, but was marketed under the name “Sugar Free Sprite.” The fizzy citrus soda was then renamed “Diet Sprite” in 1983 before finally becoming “Sprite Zero” in 2002. Sprite Zero features the signature fizzy lemon-lime flavor of Sprite without any of the calories, making it our number six best selling soda.
7. Coca-Cola Zero
Consumers have continued to seek low and no-calorie beverage choices, and the Coca-Cola company has continued to provide — Coke Zero is just one of Coca-Cola’s many sugar-free options available today. Coca-Cola began developing Coke Zero in the late 1990s as they searched for a low-calorie carbonated option that would appeal to male soda drinkers.
While Coke Zero would eventually become extremely successful, it was not popular right away. When it debuted in the U.S. in 2005, Coke Zero featured white packaging that many male consumers associated with more feminine diet drinks. When the company switched to black packaging in 2006, Coke Zero earned its spot among the greats of low-calorie sodas. The zero-calorie zero-sugar drink is now sold in 159 countries and is available in the popular flavor Cherry Coke Zero.
Here are a few more interesting facts about Coca-Cola Zero:
- Coke Zero’s signature black cans were first launched in New Zealand to appeal to fans of the country’s national rugby team the All Blacks.
- Coke Zero earned the nickname “Bloke Coke” in Australia due to its popularity among young males.
- A few months prior to its official launch, a sample pack of Coke Zero was sold on eBay to create excitement around the new product.
8. Schweppes Ginger Ale
After ten years of experimenting, the amateur scientist Jacob Schweppe became the first person to successfully capture bubbles in water to invent soda water in 1783. Schweppe’s soda water was instantly popular among doctors and pharmacists as a treatment for upset stomach and many other ailments.
In 1851, Schweppes soda water became the official drink of the Great Exhibition in London which was held in a crystal palace built specifically for the event. The fountain at the entrance of the event is now pictured on the brand’s packaging. In 1870, Schweppe invented the Indian Tonic Water and Ginger Ale that consumers still enjoy today.
Schweppes sodas were briefly unavailable during the Second World War in England, however the brand continued to advertise without a product. Their print ads aimed to create optimism about post-war times when the fizzy drink would return to shelves. When Schweppes Tonic water became available again in 1947. The Swiss brand has since gained international popularity, and Schweppes has featured several famous brand ambassadors, including Nicole Kidman in 2009 and Uma Thurman in 2011. Schweppes Ginger Ale comes in as our number eight most popular soft drink brand and is also available in Diet Schweppes Ginger Ale.
9. Pepsi Zero Sugar
The story of Pepsi began in North Carolina in 1893 when drug store owner Caleb D. Bradham created a sweet, cola beverage that he dubbed “Brad’s Drink.” The beverage, originally marketed as a health drink to help digestion, became popular almost overnight.
In 1898, Bradham changed the name of Brad’s Drink to Pepsi-Cola, hoping to maximize on the recent success of Coca-Cola, and Pepsi has been a worthy competitor of Coke ever since. The Pepsi company ranked number six as one of the world’s most popular brands in 2018 and second most popular soft drink in the U.S.
Pepsi Zero Sugar ranks as our ninth best-selling soda and is a worthy rival to Coke Zero. Formerly named Pepsi Max, Pepsi Zero is a ginseng-infused soda with the same great taste of Pepsi-Cola, but none of the calories. Pepsi Zero Sugar also competes well in the energy drink market as it contains more caffeine than many of Pepsi’s other soft drinks.
Here are a few more interesting facts about Pepsi you may not know:
- In Japan, Pepsi has an official mascot named “Pepsiman.” This faceless superhero wears the Pepsi logo and appears in commercials to deliver soda to thirsty people. Pepsiman has appeared in a dozen commercials and even starred in his own 1999 video game for PlayStation. In the Pepsiman video game, players dodge dangers and collect cans of Pepsi as they help Pepsiman deliver soda to a person in need.
- Pepsi has also made a splash on the silver screen in films like the 1992 comedy Wayne’s World, the cult classic Fight Club and the 1990 comedy Home Alone.
- Over the years, there have been many unique flavors of Pepsi, including the limited edition Pepsi Fire and a 2007 flavor Pepsi Ice Cucumber released only in Japan.
- In 2016, Pepsi released Pepsi 1893, a bold soda that returns to Pepsi’s roots with a bold blend of malt, aromatic bitters, real sugar, sparkling water and Kola nut extract. Pepsi 1893 is now available in several rich flavors, including Black Currant, Ginger and Citrus.
10. Fresca Peach Citrus
Another diet soft drink that was early on the scene, the light and citrus-flavored Fresca was released by the Coca-Cola company in the mid 1960s. It was advertised as a chill and refreshing beverage, perfect for a hot summer day — the soda’s name even means “fresh” in Spanish.
Fresca is available in several taste-tingling flavors, including Original Citrus, Black Cherry and our most popular flavor Peach Citrus. With a revamped marketing campaign and fresh new packaging, Fresca is sure to gain momentum in 2018, so you may want to snag yours today.
Buy the Best Soda Brands at Beverage Universe
At Beverage Universe, we carry all of the top soda brands, so you can always find your favorite. As the World’s Largest Online Beverage Store, our selection of soft drinks includes unique and rare sodas you won’t find just anywhere.
Beverage Universe offers many sizes of cans, bottles and cases, so you can stock up for a party or order just enough for your family to enjoy. Our convenient online store and home delivery makes it easy to keep your fridge full of the drinks you love. Shop our soft drink selection to taste the most popular soda brands today.