Do Americans Really Drink Soda For Breakfast?

If you've ordered any fast-food breakfast combo meals lately, you may have been amused to note that not only can you choose from coffee, juice, or milk as your beverage, but you're also likely to have the option to select a soda instead. Is soda for breakfast really a thing now? Whether you're in the "Coke is the only way to start the day" camp or you're "Team Coffee all the way," you may be wondering how many people are starting their day with something sweet and fizzy rather than hot and bitter.

It's not that easy to come by statistics pertaining specifically to soda that is drunk during morning hours, as opposed to at any other time of day. Still, some data collected over the previous decade, seemed to indicate that soda drinking in the a.m. was on the rise. A 2007 Seattle Times article cited survey data indicating that 15.1% of people ordering restaurant breakfasts were asking for soda, nearly double the 7.9% who did so in 1990. A 2016 article published on the website Coke Solutions noted a 6.2% bump in sparkling soft drinks purchased during breakfast hours over the preceding two-year period, and they seemed to credit millennials for driving this increase.

These statistics don't tell the whole story

This bump in morning soda sales may or may not be indicative of a larger trend. A 2016 Eater article pointed out that soda manufacturers have been trying to push their product as a breakfast beverage for the past 30+ years, with mixed results. Jolt Cola may have been the first of the super-caffeinated sodas that were thought to be a possible coffee replacement, but major manufacturers soon jumped in with their own competing products. Pepsi A.M. was a big old flopperoo, while Coke's BreakMate was just another office vending machine, and one that seemed to go on the fritz as frequently as any McDonald's ice cream machine

Just because this type of marketing didn't fly in the 80s didn't mean it wasn't going to get a 21st century reboot, though. In 2007 Pepsi released Gatorade A.M. (later renamed Shine On), while in 2012 Taco Bell started serving a concoction they dubbed "Mountain Dew A.M." consisting of the named soda mixed with orange juice. Mountain Dew themselves came out with the extra-caffeinated Kickstart the following year, and that product really took off, but not as a breakfast-specific beverage. Instead, it seems to be viewed as more of an energy drink/soda hybrid along the lines of Coke Energy.

Breakfast soda may be a southern thing

While anecdotal evidence isn't the same thing as hard data, it can help to provide some context to help us understand the why, when, where, and who of breakfast soda drinking. One Redditor started a 2019 thread by posting a statistic claiming that 12% of all Coke consumed in the U.S. is drunk as a breakfast beverage. Comments ranged from "drinking soda for breakfast sounds repulsive" to "That's me. I pop open a soda when I get to work in the morning."

Reading through the comments thread, it's interesting to note the different regions the commenters were posting from. Someone in Massachusetts said, "I don't know of anyone personally who does this" and another in upstate New York added, "Not common around Buffalo." On the other hand, a North Carolinian responded, "This morning I had half liter Dr. Pepper and six-pack of peanut butter cracker," while a Floridian admitted to "Drinking a Coke Zero right now with my breakfast sandwich." Over on Quora, a user answering the question, "Do you drink soda for breakfast?" answered, "That seems to be a southern thing ... I know people who drink soda for breakfast and every one of them grew up in the south."

Soda in the morning is also popular in the Midwest

Soda for breakfast also seems to be somewhat of a trend in one other region of the country besides the southern states, that being the Midwest. One Redditor referred to Diet Dr. Pepper as "Hoosier Coffee" (Hoosiers is not just the name of a movie, but also a nickname for anyone from Indiana). A commenter from Kansas called breakfast soda "very common around here," while one from Michigan said, "I've definitely seen it happen" and another Michigander chimed in, "I have drank pop/soda in the morning before." A third Mitten Stater admitted, "I'm one of those people. The only time I ever really crave soda is first thing in the morning ... Honestly it's very rare that I drink a soda outside of breakfast time, now that I think about it."

A few more Midwesterneras on Quora were also carrying the can for "pop." An Ohioan confessed, "I am guilty of drinking soda pop with my breakfast," while a former Minnesotan who migrated to California said, "Not now, but I did when I was in my 20s." Could it be that some habits no longer pass muster when you're west of the Rockies? Perhaps breakfast soda is just something you grow out of when your digestive system can no longer handle caffeine, sugar, and bubbles all in one go. Though who knows what marketing innovations lie ahead ... it may well be that breakfast seltzer is just over the horizon.