US consumers are rapidly switching from calorie-laden sodas to much lighter beverages, according to research out today (1 April).

A report from Mintel has shown that from 2003 to 2008, the regular carbonated soft drink market lost 15.6m adult drinkers. Just 68% of respondents to the November 2008 survey said they drank regular soda in 2008, down from 76% in 2003.

During the same period, the number of diet soda drinkers grew by 7.8m.

"Regular soda has taken the brunt of criticism from America's obesity and health issues, because people associate it with 'empty' calories and artificial ingredients," said Krista Faron, senior analyst at Mintel.

"As health and wellness awareness grows, more people are turning away from old-fashioned pop and looking for healthier, lower calorie drinks, as well as drinks that offer the functionality to meet their specific lifestyle needs."

As consumers adopt healthier lifestyles and look for new beverages to go with them, Mintel said it has seen "rapid growth" in the number of people who regularly drink non-soda options.

Around 24m more Americans drank bottled water in 2008 than in 2003 and the number of energy drink users nearly doubled from 2003 to 2008, to 34.5m from 17.4m. Sports Drinks have also experienced an increase in the past five years, with 11m adults drinking them at the end of last year.

The consumer survey showed that one in three beverage-purchasing adults (34%) said they're drinking more water and less carbonated beverages to manage weight or other health conditions.