How much soda do Utahns really drink?

The founder of Swig says soda consumption is much higher in the South.

(Swig) The founder of Swig says that its "dirty sodas" are more popular in the South than in Utah.

How much soda do people in Utah drink?

“I think people think we drink a lot of soda, and we’re lower on the list than a lot of other states,” said Nicole Tanner, founder of the Swig soda shop chain — which she started in 2010 in St. George and since has expanded across Utah, as well as into Arizona, Idaho, Oklahoma and Texas.

While hard data is difficult to come by, Tanner — whose company is the one of Utah’s best-known makers of so-called “dirty soda,” a trend some claim started in the Beehive State — said its Utah customers don’t buy the sugar-sweetened beverages as much as people think, and certainly not compared with folks down South.

Tanner said Utahns aren’t the biggest customers for the company’s “dirty sodas,” such as the Dirty Dr Pepper, which has coconut added to it. It’s Swig’s “refreshers” — made with still and sparkling water, plus ingredients such as fresh fruit and sugar-free flavorings — that Utahns are ordering most. Tanner said the shop is expanding that part of its menu and adding more options.

“For us, it’s just more about the flavor profile,” Tanner said. “What are our customers liking with their flavor shots? And some like them sugary, some like them not. And so we have options for both.”

When Swig started expanding, it was a natural move for them first to go into the South. Tanner said states such as Oklahoma and Texas have a much higher soda consumption than Utah. “Like, Sonic started in Oklahoma. So that was a very natural step over to Oklahoma for us,” she said.

There isn’t much data on consumption, but the data that is available shows Utah adults haven’t reported drinking much soda — or other sugary beverages, for that matter.

Based on the average of self-reported numbers in 2010 and 2015, about 54% of Utah adults consume sugar-sweetened beverages — including regular soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with added sugars — at least once a day.

That’s the sixth lowest of any state and about 10 percentage points lower than the national average.

Neighboring states had higher or much higher rates of consumption, from 58.8% in Idaho to 73.2% in Wyoming — the third highest of any state.

Beverage industry data meshes with what adults reported they consume.

A researcher used Beverage Marketing Corporation sales data from 2019 and 2024 projections to calculate estimated sales in 2021.

That study estimated Utahns purchased an average of 125.1 liters each in 2021 — about 33 gallons per person. That tied with Montana for the seventh-lowest rate.

The rate varied from 89.1 liters per person per year in Hawaii to 196.1 in Missouri. Swig recently opened a shop in Rogers, Arkansas, in the Ozarks, less than 20 miles from the Missouri state line.

While Utah is low for adult soda consumption, kids drink more sugar-sweetened beverages than average.

Based on parent reports as part of the National Survey of Children’s Health, about 67% of Utah kids age 1 to 5 drank at least one soda or other sugary drink a week in 2022.

That’s the 11th-highest rate in the country, and nearly 10 percentage points higher than the national average. It was also up slightly from the rate reported by parents in 2021.

Most neighboring states had similarly high rates, from 65.3% in Wyoming to 67% in Idaho. Colorado was the exception, with 53.5% of kids between 1 and 5 drinking at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a week.

About 23% of Utah kids drank sugary beverages at least four times a week, according to the annual survey. Some had them more often, but the data becomes less reliable after that because of smaller sample sizes.

At least at Swig’s locations in Utah, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Tanner said that Swig’s child-size cup is 12 ounces, but their cup isn’t always filled with soda. One kid-popular drink at Swig is the Shark Attack — Sprite, light lemonade, blue raspberry flavoring and a gummy shark on top. She said she will see a lot of moms give their kids a fruit water, just plain water, or plain water with a gummy shark.

“We have lots of sugar-free options for those kids, so the moms don’t have to feel like they have to get them a sugary drink,” Tanner said.

With Swig expanding into Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Kansas and Nevada in the next six to seven years, Tanner said, there will be more occasion than ever for Americans to drink soda — or a “refresher.”