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Soft drink

A soft drink is a drink that does not contain alcohol, as opposed to hard drinks, that do. In general, the term is used only for cold beverages. Hot chocolate, tea, and coffee are not considered soft drinks. (Carbonated milk would probably not be considered a soft drink.) The term originally referred exclusively to carbonated drinks, and is still commonly used in this manner.

Soft drinks in a Virginia supermarket


Soft drinks are commonly sold in stores in bottles and cans. Sales earn a significant amount of money for the producers and distributors. Most famous name-brand soft drinks are produced and bottled by local or regional independent bottling companies. These companies license the name, and are usually sold the main ingredients, with syrup made by the main manufacturing plants of the trademark holders. In the past, most cola-flavoured and other soft drinks were sweetened with ordinary sugar (sucrose), but to save on production costs, most companies in the USA have turned to the more economical HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup) as a sweetener. In some countries outside the United States, sugar is still used. Competition in the industry among soft drink producers is widely referred to as the "cola wars".

Diet soft drinks

In recent years, there has been a growing demand for alternatives to sugar-heavy soft drinks. "Regular" soft drinks largely contain sugar or corn syrup, and have been blamed in recent years for contributing to obesity. Sugars, like other carbohydrates, stimulate the production of the hormone insulin, which causes the body to store fat rather than burn it. "Diet" soft drinks are sweetened with chemicals, such as aspartame and saccharin, that are perceived as sweet by most people, yet do not stimulate insulin production or have any food energy or nutritional value.

Naming conventions

Pop vs. soda vs. coke in the United States

In the United States, "soft drink" commonly refers to cold, non-alcoholic beverages. Carbonated beverages are regionally known as "pop" in the Midwest. In the Northeast, parts of the South (near Florida) and Midwest (near St. Louis), and California, they are known as "soda". In much of the South, they are generically called "coke". (Atlanta, Georgia is home to the Coca-Cola Company.) Internally, the Coca-Cola Company (and probably other such corporations) uses the term "non-alcoholic carbonated beverage".

The Pacific Northwest, being a melting pot of America, uses both "pop" and "soda". In some other areas these drinks are called "soda pop", while in and around Boston, Massachusetts, they are often called "tonic" by the older generations. In North Carolina, the terms "drink" and "soft drink" are commonly used along with "soda" and "coke" to refer to non-alcoholic cold drinks. See The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy for maps and geographical trends.

At many restaurants in the U.S., one finds that the products of only a single major beverage producer, such as The Coca-Cola Company or PepsiCo, are available. While a patron who requests a “coke” may be truly indifferent as to which cola brand he receives, the careful order taker will confirm intent with a question like “Is Pepsi OK?” Similarly, “7 Up” may indicate whichever clear, carbonated, citrus-flavored drink happens to be at hand. The generic uses of these brand names does not affect the local usage of the words "pop" or "soda", to mean any carbonated beverage.

Names in other countries and languages

In Australia and New Zealand, "soft drink" almost always refers to carbonated beverages. In some parts of Australia the term "lolly water" is synonymous with "soft drink", but it now increasingly refers to bright-coloured alcoholic drinks which some claim are marketed at youth ("lolly water" is also rarely used in reference to wine variants). "Lemonade" can refer to "lemon drink" or "lemon squash", but it is typically used only to refer to translucent or citrus-flavoured beverages (for example, Sprite, 7-Up, etc). The term "coke" is used not only for the Coca-cola beverage, but commonly for other brands of cola, although not universally.

In Brazil, soft drinks are called 'refrigerante', or sometimes just as 'refri'. Although there is the term soda, it just refers specifically to lemon lime soft drinks. Not for Coke or Pepsi, for instance.

In Canada in English, "Soft Drink" is the most common term. "Pop" refers to a carbonated soft drink. "Soda" is very infrequently used. In French, "soft drink" is used under the form "boisson douce". But they say also "boisson gazeuse", "liqueur douce", "soda" or "liqueur". The word "liqueur" for "soft drink" sometimes forms ambiguity with French from France where "liqueur" stands for a very specific set of aperitive and digestive alcoholic drinks.

In China, soft drinks are often called "gas water" (汽水) or simply "drinks" (Simp.Chinese:饮料 Trad.Chinese:飲料). The first one refers to carbonated drinks only while the latter refers to any drink (though often it refers to soft drink). It is far more common to say the actual name of the drink (eg. Coke, Bottled Tea etc.) than saying generic terms above.

In Dutch, soft drinks are called frisdrank ('fresh drink'), a word coined in 1956 by adman Dick Schiferli.

In Ethiopia, soft drinks are generally known by the Amharic word "leslassa", meaning literally "smooth". The popular brand names "Koka" (Coke) and "Mirinda" (Orange Soda) are also in common parlance.

In German, soft drinks are known as Limo short for Limonade, the German word for lemonade, but in America lemonade is an uncarbonated beverage, generally not considered a soft drink. Some regions also use Sprudel (from sprudeln=to be fizzy) or Brause (in Eastern-Germany) for carbonated non-alcoholic drinks.

In Greece, the term Gazoza is used to refer to clear soft drinks such as 7-Up or Sprite.

In India, soft drinks go by a variety of names including "juice", "soft drinks", "cold drinks" and "cool drinks". "Soda" in India refers generally to carbonated water and not artificially flavored, carbonated beverages.

In Ireland, soft drinks are referred to as "minerals". Lemonade is also a generic term for a fizzy drink, and comes in two varities — red and white. Red lemonade is similar to the Scottish drink Irn-Bru, and is popular both as a drink for kids and as a mixer for spirits.

In Japan, soft drinks are commonly referred to as "juice", and by younger generations as "drink", a shortened term for "PET-bottle drink". Non-carbonated drinks capture the majority of the soft drink market, and their main rivals are varieties of bottled tea and green tea. Canned and bottled coffee has an equally large market share, and the carbonated drink market is smaller, in contrast to other nations. Coca-Cola splits the carbonated market with Mitsuya Saidaa -- a sweet, clear carbonated drink, and Pepsi lags behind these two, entering the market only in the 90s. Lime flavored drink (Mountain Dew and Sprite) holds almost no market share or marketed with only a touch of lime flavor. The official name for such drinks in documents and labels is Seiryo Inryo Sui (清涼飲料水) and those carbonated are called Tansan Inryo (炭酸飲料).

In Paraguay, soft drinks are called gaseosas. The name coca is also common.

In Mexico, soft drinks are called "sodas" in the north. In central and southern Mexico, they are called "refrescos", and less frequently "gaseosas".

In Norwegian, carbonated soft drinks are called brus, which means "fizz". It is a truncated form of the now obsolete bruslimonade.

In Swedish, soft drinks are called läsk which comes from läskande drycker (roughly — refreshing drinks) and denotes carbonated non-alcoholic soft drinks. In northern Sweden the word dricka (drink) is often used. The word lemonad has more or less the same use as the English word lemonade, but belongs to a slightly higher level of style than läsk. In Finland-Swedish lemonad is more common and refers to all kinds of carbonated soft drinks, läsk (or läskedryck) is also used. Many people, both Finnish and Swedish speakers, also uses the word limsa.

In the United Kingdom the term originally applied to carbonated drinks ("pop") and non-carbonated drinks made from concentrates ("squash"), although it now commonly refers to any drink that does not contain alcohol. To further confuse matters, alcopops are often called "alcoholic soft drinks". The term "pop", once popular as a generic term for soft drinks is now mainly restricted to the north of England, and Wales. The term "fizzy drinks" is also used as a synonym for sweetened carbonated drinks. In the West of Scotland, soft drinks are commonly known as "ginger", presumably referring to an early "soft drink", ginger beer. Carbonated drinks are also known as "juice" in some locations.

See also: List of soft drinks by country

Mixed soft drinks

  • a graveyard / suicide / pop bomb / swamp water / garbage soda is made by mixing many soft drinks together, usually from a soda fountain.
  • a float is created by dropping a scoop of ice cream into a soft drink. In Australia and New Zealand, this is known as a Spider.

In Brazil, a scoop of ice cream into a soft drink may have different names:

  • vaca preta (black cow) - ice cream in cola.
  • vaca amarela (yellow cow) - ice cream in guarana flavoured soft drink.
  • pantera cor de rosa (the Pink Panther) - strawberry ice cream in lemon lime soft drink.

In the U.S., some floats have specific names as a Brown Cow or Black Cow, vanilla ice cream in root beer, or Boston cooler, vanilla ice cream in Vernor's ginger ale.


Studies showing a correlation between soft drinks and obesity

A study from Harvard shows that soft drinks may be responsible for the doubling of obesity in children over the last 15 years.

From 1991 and 1995, adolescent boys in the US, on average, increased their intake of soft drinks from 345 mL to 570 mL. Most soft drinks are sweetened with sugar or corn syrup, and not artificial sweeteners. Dr. David Ludwig of the Boston Children's Hospital showed that school children drinking eight U.S. fluid ounces (240 mL) or more of soft drinks daily will consume 835 calories (3,500 kilojoules) more than those avoiding soft drinks; i.e., children who drink soft drinks loaded with sugar tend to eat much more food than those who avoid soft drinks. Either those taking sugared drinks lack the same restraint on foods, or sugared drinks cause a rise in insulin that makes adolescents more hungry, causing them to eat more. Children who drink soft drinks regularly are therefore fatter on average, in addition to being more likely to develop diabetes later in life (see below).

Source: - Lancet 2001;357:505-08. "Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis" Dr. David Ludwig from the Children's Hospital Boston and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health.

This finding is controversial, because children in much of the Third World also consume large numbers of soft drinks with even more sugar, and do not share the same obesity rates as American children, suggesting that other factors are involved aside from sugar consumption in soft drinks. Suggested factors include physical activity, and the fact that American soft drinks are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar.

Soda linked to diabetes

In 2004, a study of 50,000 nurses over a period of 8 years found that drinking just one soft drink per day increases ones risk of developing diabetes by 80%, independent of other lifestyle factors.

Cancer risk

Yet another study found that soft drink consumption to be highly correlated with cancer of the esophagus. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5003894


Some argue that soft drinks are too widely available, from every restaurant, movie theater, vending machine, and similar locations. The wide availability is said to cause young people to somewhat mistake soft drinks for a major food group.

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