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What Utah’s “Dirty Soda” craze tells us about regional isolation

There is something comforting about the universality of soda. Any name-brand cola in the deep recesses of a gas station freezer in California will taste nearly identical to its counterpart at a diner soda fountain in Kentucky. The taste profile, meticulously crafted by chemists and flavor experts, has withstood the test of time.

In recent decades, the soda industry has seen a drop in consumption, largely due to health campaigns encouraging Americans to opt for low-sugar alternatives. However, the carbonated beverage market remains a behemoth (currently valued at a whopping $407 billion), its popularity is only increasing in some parts of the country.

Carrying the weight of the soda industry is the American Mountain West, where soda shops are as ubiquitous as McDonald’s — and their popularity is spreading northward. Western soda shops, which sell colas mixed with various dairy creamers and syrups, are springing up along the “Mormon Corridor,” a region stretching from Utah towards Idaho with a highly concentrated Mormon population.

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