Have no fear, your Mexican Coke will remain as sweet as ever

Published online: Nov 12, 2013
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Settle down, hipsters. Mexicoke won't be losing its acclaimed cane sugar any time soon.

Reports circulating on websites including Quartz and BuzzFeed are warning that Mexican Coke sold in the U.S. may fall flat as Mexican bottlers adjust their sweetener mix to adapt to a pending fat tax on sugary beverages in Mexico.

The reports are generating a chorus of disappointment, since Mexicoke has developed cult status in the U.S. One Facebook fan page with more than 10,000 followers insists that the sugar in Mexican Coke makes it better than the high fructose corn syrup version widely sold in the U.S. Many aficionados are also drawn to the glass bottle, a relic of childhood, and argue that the packaging is less permeable-and thus less susceptible to adulteration-than plastic bottles.

Fans that pay a premium for the imported Cokes are dismayed. "I realize the taste difference is largely psychosomatic, but NOOOOO!!!" whined a Mexicoke fan on BuzzFeed.

Well, fear not, soda snobs. All those reports are wrong.

Monterrey, Mexico-based Arca Continental, which bottles Coca-Cola in glass bottles for U.S. consumers as part of a nostalgia project that began in 2005, assures that its fizzy pop destined for the U.S. market will continue to be sweetened entirely with cane sugar.

That's not the case for Coke sold in Mexico. The soda chugged in vast quantities by Mexicans has long been sweetened with a mix of high fructose corn syrup and cane sugar. The mix varies, depending on which sweetener is cheaper, with local bottlers aiming to limit HFCS to conserve taste and their relationships with Mexico's powerful sugar industry.

Currently Mexico's largest soft drink bottler, Coca-Cola Femsa uses HFCS to cover 60% of its sweetener needs, CFO Hector Treviño told analysts last month. Mr. Treviño said his bottler is at maximum capacity for HFCS and that, if anything, going forward it will buy more cane sugar-which is very cheap right now. Mexico is the world's fifth-biggest sugar producer, and domestic bottlers have their own sugar refineries.

Arca Continental's HFCS-to-sugar mix for Mexican-sold soda is around 50/50, giving it marginal leeway to increase HFCS if the price is right, CEO Francisco Garza said last month. But that doesn't mean it will. Mr. Garza explained that whether the company decides to buy more HFCS will depend in part on its relationship with its own sugar mills.

Source: blogs.wsj.com