What’s your favorite soda? If you drink soda at all, you might have a strong preference for a particular brand. Some people despise colas, so they choose a lemon-lime option like Sprite or 7-Up. And others crave the sweet and unique flavor of root beer. Whichever camp you belong to, have you ever wondered which sodas are the best selling in the world?
Coca-Cola is one of the oldest sodas that is still available today. While the recipe has been tweaked over the years and there are now multiple versions available, the classic soda has a dubious history. Doctor John Pemberton created the formula as a nerve elixir in 1885 and sold it in his pharmacy. He also used it to curb a morphine addiction he developed from an old Civil War injury. The original recipe was a coca wine — an intense combination of cocaine and wine. But when prohibition laws were passed in Georgia, Pemberton had to create a non-alcoholic version. And thus, Coca-Cola was born.
You might not think that Red Bull deserves to be listed as a soda, but it is a carbonated beverage. In fact, this young addition to the soft drink category is nothing more than a soda with taurine and various B vitamins added to the ingredients list. In 2014, the company agreed to a settlement after a class-action suit claimed that it had engaged in false advertising because of branding the beverage as an energy drink and making the claim that “Red Bull gives you wings.” In truth, the supposed energy boost comes from sugar rather than actual performance-boosting ingredients like caffeine.
Yes, it can seem confusing that entries from the same company are treated as separate entities. But each product is viewed as an independent soda. Diet Coke is the third most popular soda beverage in the world and was first introduced in 1982. And depending on who you talk to, it’s either significantly better or worse than plain Coke. So, what’s so different between the diet and original versions? While we can’t account for personal flavor preference, there’s scientific evidence to show that the diet version of any soda might not be your most healthful option. It’s believed that the artificial sweeteners used in beverages like Diet Coke cause you to ingest more sugar than if you drank a regular Coke.
If you want to see a fight break out, tell people that Coca-Cola and Pepsi are exactly the same. For starters, they’re not the same because each has a specific recipe with unique flavor profiles. The point is that people tend to fall firmly into team Coca-Cola or team Pepsi. However, Pepsi is slightly younger than Coca-Cola, having been invented in 1893 by Caleb Bradham. The cola has always served as the original competitor to the older Coca-Cola. However, the company went bankrupt in 1923 because of unstable sugar prices during World War I. But they managed to rally, and today Pepsi is one of the best-selling sodas in the world.
Are you familiar with the Fantana girls singing “Wanna Fanta! Don't you wanna?" Fanta is a fruit-flavored soda that has been promoted over the last two decades with a gaggle of colorfully dressed spokespeople who pep up the energy of boring events by bringing soda and positive vibes. Today, Fanta is part of The Coca-Cola Company, but few people know its true origins. The brand was created in Nazi Germany during World War II when there was an embargo after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor that prevented Coca-Cola syrup from being imported. The German division of Coca-Cola had to halt production of the original soda. But enterprising executives in the local branch created a substitute by combining apple peels, cider mash, and whey curds to create a fruit-flavored brown soda known as Fanta.
Sprite is the second-youngest entry on this list. The lemon-lime flavored soda was released in 1961 and is also part of the Coca-Cola Company’s portfolio. But the drink has its origins in post World War II Germany. Depending on who you ask, Sprite was a new flavor created under the Fanta brand as Clear Lemon Fanta in 1959 in West Germany. And some reports say that it was 1956 when The Coca-Cola Company began tinkering with the idea of a lemon-lime soda that would act as a direct competitor to 7-Up in the U.S. Whichever story is true, Sprite continues to be a popular beverage choice to this day.
How we determined the best-selling sodas
While it’s not easy to compile a lifetime view of which sodas are the best-selling, we looked at global sales from 2018 and drew conclusions on which soda was the most popular. It’s important to note that sodas are considered part of the soft drink category, which references any hot or cold beverage that is non-alcoholic. That includes bottled water, tea, coffee, performance drinks such as Gatorade, and energy drinks. But for the purposes of our article, we focused solely on carbonated beverages. Check out the full list of the best selling soft drinks from last year as reported by Statista.