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When Coca-cola debuted it was sold in 6 oz. bottles. Six ounces! Today the thought of drinking a mere 6 oz. of Coke seems unfathomably quaint, like riding around in a carriage or steadfastly refusing to believe it's not butter.

I remember buying the 8 oz. "half cans" of Coke at the local market when I was a kid, but the 12 oz. can reigned supreme for the last few decades. No longer, though. Now the standard unit of Coke (here in the Northwest, at least) is 20 oz. -- you can no longer find the smaller-sized cans of soda at gas stations or convenience stores, and even vending machines now dispense plastic bottles.

When Coke sold in 6 oz. bottles it was billed as the "pause" that refreshes. Now it's a motherlovin' sabbatical.

You'd think that there would be a logical upper-limit to the amount of cola soft drink companies could pawn off as the "standard." You'd think that, but apparently you'd be wrong. Wendy's, for instance, is currently renaming its drink sizes, and what was once a "Biggie" Mountain Dew is now a "medium." In other words, their "standard" size contains 32 oz. So does the 7-11 "Big Gulp" -- and it's the smallest of the Gulp family, which includes the Super Big Gulp (44 oz.), the X-Treme Big Gulp (52 oz.), and the Brobdingnagian Gulp (a Coca-cola syrup canister with a straw stuck into it). We can't raise the minimum wage in this country, but the minimum serving size of Sprite just goes up and up and up.

"Sure," you might argue, "but those are fountain drinks, which are 50% ice anyhow. But the standard size of soft drinks sold in stores can't possibly get any bigger than 20 oz." Au contraire, Mon Pèpper! Here's the side of a vending machine I saw today, photographic evidence that the cola companies are already laying the psychological groundwork for future increases:

I'm just growing accustomed to drinking 20 oz. of soda in a single sitting, and now I'm told that such a quantity is suitable for "slamming" "quickly?" Um, you go first. For some reason I find the thought having my esophagus lining stripped off by carbonic acid unappealing. But I'm sure it gets easier over time, as the scar tissue builds up in there.

I think the cola companies have one simple goal: to only have to make their product in a single size -- perferably a size they already produce so they won't have to modify their existing facilities. And they're well on their way. All they have to do is increment the "standard" a few more times over the next few years and, by 2010, drinking a two-liter bottle of Coke with your lunchtime Reuben will be considered the norm. We're gonna need some bigger cupholders.

Posted on June 22, 2006 to Observations


at the 7-11s in my area (St. Louis) they still have the 16 oz "Gulp." A "DOUBLE Gulp," however, is a mere 64 oz.

Posted by: Adam on June 23, 2006 11:13 PM

Yeah, I was gonna mention the 16 oz Gulp, too. What I really wanted to point out, though, is that the vending machine you saw today must be really old, because pepsi cans (& bottles) haven't been white in about 6 years. They had a huge advertising/promotional campaign in 2000 (IIRC) to promote their new, "blue" look. You musta missed it. ;) If I'm not mistaken, that particular pepsi label dates from the introduction of the 20 oz bottle, so maybe the early 90's I'd say?

It's funny that I remember this crap, because I can't stand pepsi.

None of this invalidates your point, however. I used to live on coca-cola, but I don't drink soda anymore, partly because of these reasons (constant product "expansion")

Posted by: Phill on June 24, 2006 3:00 AM

You're kidding, but I've met people who do buy a 2-liter bottle and walk around drinking out of it.

Posted by: CM on June 24, 2006 3:14 AM

I was in Spain recently and every single cafe I was at in Madrid served 200 mL glass bottles of Coke. That's less than 7 oz for you Yanks! Small, cold and served in glass... to me, the continentals have got it right. Of course, if you're sitting outside on a plaza, then you pay for the privilege. I think the average price was about €2 for these tiny bottles. That works out to 37¢ an ounce!

Posted by: Luke on June 24, 2006 3:19 AM

Well, you know what they say about people not drinking enough fluids these days. It could have a positive twist to it. And those sugar highs...Mmmm.

Posted by: Victoria on June 24, 2006 3:40 AM

I didn't know Sprint did pop/soda!

The Boyfriend drinks straight out of 2-liters as if they're glasses of pop/soda. It's gross.

Posted by: Rachel on June 24, 2006 4:10 AM

Why are your smaller sizes in ounces but larger ones in litres? You crazy Yanks, when will you learn?

I was in Australia earlier this year. They have 600ml bottles, but I think the more common size is smaller than that (maybe 350ml). In Ireland the standard bottle is 500ml, but Coke have recently introduced a smaller size (350ml) to make up for the fact that no-one drinks from cans (330ml) anymore.

Posted by: Rory Parle on June 24, 2006 5:49 AM

You haven't noticed the 1 liter bottles, have you? They've been around for a while. Mt. Dew is the most prominent, with a wide mouth opening.

Posted by: Keith on June 24, 2006 7:34 AM

Ireland... I don't think I drank any pop in Ireland. Beer or water. :) I like the half pints (which are 10 oz, a pint being 20 over there). Nice when 20 oz of beer is too much.

Posted by: Ellen on June 24, 2006 7:38 AM

You can buy, hold onto your seat, BOTH the 6oz. glass bottles and the half-cans at Shaws in Massachusetts.

Posted by: anna on June 24, 2006 8:46 AM

My ex reffered to me as "drinking coke like water" and we did.

By we, I mean myself and the siblings. The 3 of us during the Summer holidays would easily gulp down a 4 pack of 2 Litre bottles in a day. It's not even as if Britain gets that hot in the summer.

I suppose it beat us having to cook for ourselves.

Unfortunately this lead to a habit I am only just shaking off. And now, It's orange juice, I am on 400% RDA of vitamin C.

Thanks Coca-Cola, you ruined my life.

Posted by: James on June 24, 2006 9:25 AM

It's no wonder that Type 2 diabetes is becoming so common in younger and younger people these days when you see this kind of stuff.

People tend to forget that beverages have substantial caloric value and usually end up doubling their intake when they pair a meal up with a soda. Get the bottle of water instead!

And James, watch out for that O.J. - it'll easily do the same thing to you as the soda. Sure it's not usually loaded with high fructose corn syrup, but it's still high in sugar. During my pregnancy I was drinking O.J. far too much and it's probably no small culprit in the extra 20 lbs. I need to get rid of now!

My husband and I both have begged off of soda in a big way now and we've seen much better health for it. It's a once in a while sort of thing around our house. I picked up lunch once this week at a fast food joint and ordered a "small" sprite. The damn thing was 20 oz.! Boy am I glad I didn't get a medium.

Posted by: HDC on June 24, 2006 10:02 AM

Hmm.. How long before they go back to putting cocaine in Coke? Then you have to buy the bigger bottles to get your fix....

Posted by: KLW on June 24, 2006 10:07 AM

Also, they've already started increasing the sizes, at least in the Midwest. They sell 24 oz bottles of Pepsi at Dominick's. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0004MXLG4/002-5556375-5118448?v=glance&n=3370831

And Amazon.com, as well, apparently.

Posted by: Thylacine222 on June 24, 2006 11:57 AM

I drink a 44oz. Super Big Gulp about 5 times a week, a 3:1 mixture of Diet Coke and Dr. Pepper. Fortunately, I've got a reusable lidded cup, almost a tumbler, really, from a Mt. Dew promotion at 7-Eleven a few summers ago. Actually, probably 4 summers ago. (And I never feel obligated to finish the whole thing, since I only paid $0.97 for the refill-- it was only $0.86 before the dollar fell-- either way, cheaper than the 16oz Gulp.)

Self-serve (and self-mix) fountain drink or no, I never add ice; here in Seattle, drinks don't warm up the same way they do in humid places. Most Seattlites have never seen a beer cozy before, whereas you can't live without them in other climates.

While we're on the topic, 7-Eleven's birthday, 7/11, is on a few weeks away-- free (mini) slurpees that day!

Posted by: LAN3 on June 24, 2006 11:58 AM

Since you're in Seattle, maybe you'll be as surprised as I was when I overheard this on the MAX in Portland: "Y'all don't sell 3 liters of sodapop in the grocery stores here?" 3 liters? WTF?

Posted by: Beth on June 24, 2006 1:00 PM

You're going to start seeing standard size vending machines that open up like closets to reveal one giant bottle inside. That is the future of soft drinks.

Posted by: Tom on June 24, 2006 1:30 PM

I hold in my Canadian hand a 355ml bottle of 7UP. That works out to 12oz. Not every brand of pop (Canuck-speak for soda) sells in such a small size. Pity.

Posted by: Karl on June 24, 2006 9:32 PM

As the drinks get bigger so do we. And I can't help wondering if the sleep problems many Americans are experiencing have less to do with overwork and stress and more to do with the excess caffeine consumption.

Posted by: Mom on June 25, 2006 10:02 AM

What are these Oz.s of which you speak? What's that in litres? Are you from the past?

Posted by: jon on June 25, 2006 11:31 AM

Thomas Kemper rootbeer comes in 12oz, which is plenty for me. I feel sorry for those not in the NW who have to drink Barq's and the like, yuck! I tend to stay away from soda though. I generally go with water and sometimes a glass of milk or juice. Soda just makes you feel more dehydrated and it is never really satisfying (excluding the how nice it is to have something cold in the summer, regardless of what it is).

And for Beth, yeah, I've seen those 3 liter bottles. They look like over-weight 2 liter bottles, lol! I guess they are just following the American trend...

Posted by: Ian Clifton on June 25, 2006 1:56 PM

Yesterday I stopped at the espresso bar adjacent to Nordstroms downtown (Seattle) to get a cold drink. They had something called an "orange cream," which was a bit like an Italian soda. I asked for the smallest size, and discovered it was 16 oz. I was hoping for 8.

Posted by: becca on June 25, 2006 1:57 PM

I recognize from your review of The Botany of Desire that you aren't a super-fan of Michael Pollan's, but if you're interested his most recent book (The Omnivore's Dilemma) has some interesting information about the reasons for the super-sizing trends of soft drinks in particular: namely that the introduction of corn as a sweetener (by way of high fructose corn syrup) significantly dropped the cost of producing soft drinks. Soft drink companies, rather than lower the cost of small drinks, opted instead to increase the size of their drinks. It seems that we consumers will happily purchase one 16oz drink where we wouldn't purchase two 8oz'ers.

What I found particularly interesting was that Ray Kroc (of MacDonald's fame) had to be practically forced into this understanding (in regards to super-sizing McD's meals) by one of his employees. Apparently, Mr. Kroc figured if someone wanted a double order of fries, they'd just order twice. Heh, heh. Silly fool!

Posted by: Dug on June 25, 2006 3:19 PM

I recognize from your review of The Botany of Desire that you aren't a super-fan of Michael Pollan's, but if you're interested his most recent book (The Omnivore's Dilemma) has some interesting information about the reasons for the super-sizing trends of soft drinks in particular: namely that the introduction of corn as a sweetener (by way of high fructose corn syrup) significantly dropped the cost of producing soft drinks. Soft drink companies, rather than lower the cost of small drinks, opted instead to increase the size of their drinks. It seems that we consumers will happily purchase one 16oz drink where we wouldn't purchase two 8oz'ers.

What I found particularly interesting was that Ray Kroc (of MacDonald's fame) had to be practically forced into this understanding (in regards to super-sizing McD's meals) by one of his employees. Apparently, Mr. Kroc figured if someone wanted a double order of fries, they'd just order twice. Heh, heh. Silly fool!

Posted by: Dug on June 25, 2006 3:19 PM

Read somewhere that the x-treme gulp from 7 eleven is 60% bigger than the human stomach.

Posted by: smoothj on June 25, 2006 5:32 PM

No wonder americans are so damn fat.

Posted by: David on June 25, 2006 7:50 PM

A friend of mine drank a two-liter of Coke with lunch every day when we were in high school back in the mid '90s. I guess he was ahead of his time.

Posted by: Danny on June 26, 2006 4:43 AM

I think that there is collusion between the soda companies and a global cartel of bathroom architects / builders. Before I stopped drinking caffeine, and therefore stopped drinking 90% of my usual soda intake, I spent a lot of time in the restroom after lunch.

(Soda Volume) * (Personal Bladder Volume) = (Bathroom Usage Coefficient). Due to limitations and the "ethic" of medical doctors, the PBV on the left side cannot be adjusted upwards. Therefore the only way to increase the ever-important BUC is to increase the SV, which the evil cartel controls. Previously, they did so through subtle mind-control tactics (commercials), but now they are so overconfident that they've resorted to the ham-fisted methods of today.

Posted by: Lost Poke on June 26, 2006 6:34 AM

The 'small' size drink at McDonalds in the US is the 'large' in most of europe. I recall how this same upsizing was mentioned in 'Super Size Me'. The used to be 'large' drink now comes with a happy meal.

Posted by: Micah on June 26, 2006 9:51 AM

Don't even get me started on what carbonated beverages do to your Esophogeal Valve. I do think there is a direct connection in the increase in soda intake (read stomach distension and frequent belching) and the higher occurances of GERD (GastroEsophogeal Reflux Disease aka Acid Reflux) which in turn has a happy bonus by product of Barrets Esophogus (where the esophogus is so constantly bombarded by stomach acid that the cells actually start to try to protect themselves from harm by turning into stomach wall cells). This leads to the big 'C' in your esophogus, quite possibly one of the top 10 most hideous ways to die.

Curse you Joseph Priestley! Damn you straight to hell.


Posted by: Ryan on June 26, 2006 10:02 AM

Me and my roommate have stopped buying soda and now only get seltzer water. It's the best because you take mix it with anything and get whatever flavor soda you want, but without the acidic throat dissolvers. And how much is it? 89 cents for 2 liters. We buy 6 at a time.

Posted by: Ben on June 26, 2006 10:13 AM

Well, Coke had cocaine in it when it first came out (nice secret ingredient, eh?) so maybe you didn't need as much of it to get a nice, uhm, caffeine buzz.

Posted by: wen on June 26, 2006 10:54 AM

i'm just glad that mcdonald's and other fast food places let you get milk and juice for the kid's meals. I can barely hold a 20 oz for more than an hour myself, I'm sure my 7 month old would be peeing nonstop from a 32oz soda.

Posted by: meghann on June 26, 2006 11:27 AM

12 oz of soda contains roughly 10 teaspoons of sugar (well, not really sugar, but sugary high fructose corn syrup!). Or to put it another way, drinking 36 oz of soda (less than the super big gulp) is equivalent to filling a 6 oz coke bottle with sugar and downing it.

Posted by: Crash on June 26, 2006 12:04 PM

mmmmm, a reuben sandwich sure sounds good right now. Thanks for the suggestion.

Posted by: Edward on June 27, 2006 4:20 PM

once again, the onion was there first... and nearly ten years ago!

Posted by: bruce on June 27, 2006 5:47 PM

GERD, type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure...good to know I will be paying all of your medical bills for decades to come!

Yes, the pop/soda and fast food companies are devious in their larger packaging, but even if you choose to drink pop, they can't make you drink twice as much (or 5 times as much, or 20 times!) of what you should. Order the smallest size; it's more than enough for any person. And if you end up buying a larger size, who says you have to drain the damn thing?? These companies are purposely exploiting your lack of self-control. Outsmart them!

Posted by: C on June 28, 2006 9:18 AM

Here's a good example of soda addiction:
"Jillian says a typical day includes eating a grilled Reuben sandwich with french fries for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and red meat for dinner. She also says she snacks all day long. "You know the bags you buy for Halloween? I can eat that in a day," Jillian says.

By her own admission, Jillian drinks an astonishing 300 ounces of diet soda a day. That's four six packs!"

I first saw it on one of the Discovery Health channels, I think.

High fructose corn syrup has really been making the news lately, too. "Sweet but Not So Innocent?
High-Fructose Corn Syrup May Act More Like Fat Than Sugar in the Body" http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A8003-2003Mar10?language=printer

Having said all that, I enjoy a diet coke now & then. In fact, I spotted 12 oz cans at the Vince Lombardi rest stop on the NJ Turnpike last week! I grabbed a can just because.

Posted by: YoyoGrrrl on June 28, 2006 10:00 AM

In grad school I could easily clear out a 12-pack of cans of Diet Coke in a couple of days. Diet-- so I'm not fat, god forbid, however, my kidneys have shrunk to the size of small hard raisins due to the artificial sweetners, and my esophogus might as well be lined with lead. If I went a day without 72 to 96 oz. of cool, clean sody pop, I'd get the shakes and have visions.

With a lot of work and therapy, I'm down to four cans a day now.

Posted by: Monkeyaker on June 28, 2006 12:20 PM

Damn ... I just went to the gas station to get a 44 oz. dr pepper before sitting down to read this.

Posted by: Melanie on June 28, 2006 4:22 PM

Inversely, the chain restaurant market is downsizing its beer sizes. A friend of mine went to a Bennigans not too long ago, and after ordering a pint of Guiness, I was brought a tiny glass that held approximately the amount of a juice box. When I asked the waitress why the glass what so small, she replied that this was the NEW pint. "NEW PINT", I exclaimed, "I was unaware that the system of measurements was up for debate." All she would reply was "this is the new pint".

Posted by: Mark on June 28, 2006 6:32 PM

In high school I started a habit of several cokes a day (sometimes as many as six 12 oz cans plus random other sizes from meals). My senior year they stopped selling soda during school hours (but after school the machines came on... never understood that). This trend continued when I started working when I'd get a "large" at a fast food restaurant with breakfast, another with lunch 4 hours later, again with dinner, and usually another one or two cans before bedtime. Luckily my fiancee made me cut down when I moved in with him. I was bitchy for a number of days during that but feel much better now. I limit myself to one coke a day and drink an average of 4.5 liters of water instead.

Posted by: Julia on June 29, 2006 9:28 AM

c'mon. i drink 2 20oz bottles of diet coke before lunch,and that's after an 8 oz glass for breakfast. then another 20oz with lunch, and maybe 2 little ones (who knows how much is in them? i down them in a few gulps.) by the time i get home for the evening, i'm ready for caff-free d. coke... about 3 more 8 oz glasses. i'd rather cut off my right arm than give it up.

Posted by: dietcokelover on June 29, 2006 12:59 PM

and that! that is why americans are getting so damn fat. drink some water already!

Posted by: kim on July 1, 2006 7:41 AM

I just skim read the comments here and started wondering how much American servings actually represent to us Eurotrash types. As a Brit living in Paris I'm regularly confronted with cultural differences but I have to say that the thought of a 20oz coke (equivalent to 591ml) literally scares me! No wonder Americans in Paris are constantly buying coke in McDonald's, there just isn't enough for them!

Posted by: Paris Lights on July 2, 2006 12:57 PM

Slammin doesn't appeal to me. Maybe if I had a soar throat and wanted to peal the top layer of skin off, it might work.

Posted by: Kane on July 6, 2006 8:31 AM

"No wonder americans are so damn fat", said David...

...Yes, but my mother (who, like me, is born and bred in England) went to the USA about 20 years ago. I asked her, when she got back, what the biggest difference between Britain and America was. She said "fat American women". She went back recently and I asked her whether it was still the same, and she said she hadn't really been so aware of the difference.

So, assuming Americans aren't getting any thinner, that must mean...er...the British are getting fatter.


Posted by: scandalxk on July 10, 2006 8:37 AM