Mexico Will Continue Making Sugar-Sweetened Coke—But Only for the United States

The country's new junk-food tax is pushing bottlers toward high-fructose corn syrup—but soda exported to the U.S. will still be sugar sweetened.

(Mike Blake/Reuters)

Nov 6, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

Soon, the “authentic” experience of eating tacos sold off of a cart, the tortillas patted out from fresh masa before your eyes, alongside of a battered half-liter bottle of cane sugar-sweetened Mexican Coca-Cola will only happen in once place: the United States.

The fate of Mexicoke (a dumb name that’s apparently endorsed by The Associated Press, so...) has appeared to be up in the air for few days. First, the website Quartz reported that the country’s largest Coke bottler was going to “move to more fructose” in order to lower production costs in response to the new junk food tax passed in Mexico.

So, not only would the world’s fattest nation be getting more high-fructose corn syrup as a result of the largest-ever such tax, American hipsters would be denied their alt beverage of choice.

Today, the AP cleared up the concerns on this side of the border, reporting that Arca Continental, the bottling company, “has no plans to change the sweetener for the 'Coca-Cola Nostalgia' bottles it exports to the U.S. Those will continue to use 100 percent cane sugar, it said.”

American-made Coke has relied on high fructose corn syrup since the 1980s, and it wasn’t until 2005 that Mexican bottling companies began exporting sugar-sweetened soda to the United States. Earlier this month, a Coke spokesperson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal sales of Coke that is hecho en Méxcio accounts for “a very minor percentage of our total sales.”

But for Mexico’s Arca, which has the world’s largest consumer of soft drinks as its home market, exporting Nostalgia to the United States appears to be worth the while. According to a Bloomberg profile of the company last year, ““During the past four years, the company has tripled exports to the U.S., as consumers there seek out the Coke recipe served at taco stands throughout Mexico.”

Which brings us back around to the authenticity question which, despite your opinion of the tacos available in the United States, has yet another wrinkle: The University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine analyzed Mexican Coke in 2010 and found “near equal amounts of fructose and glucose,” suggesting the use of high fructose corn syrup. No sucrose, the only sweetener the FDA allows to be referred to a sugar on an ingredient label, was detected.