As San Franciscans brace for the very real possibility of paying about a quarter more for the privilege of enjoying a can of soda, new regulations bubbling up from south of the border could ruin our beloved, real-sugar, imported Mexican Coca-Colas too.
As anyone who has ever had a hangover or eaten at a taqueria (or read a New York Times trend piece) can attest, Mexican Coca-Cola is superior to it's cornfed American cousin thanks to the Mexican market's insistence on sticking to cane sugar instead of the high fructose dreck we infuse our cola with up here. Unfortunately, all that delicious sugar is making our neighbors to the south pack on the pounds and over 70% of Mexican adults are now overweight. To combat the growing obesity epidemic, Mexico's congress approved a new tax on sugary beverages and fatty foods.
Not only did the country beat progressive American cities like New York City and San Francisco to the punch, but in Richmond, California — where a similar tax recently failed at the ballot box — activists are already cheering on the one-peso-per-liter soda surcharge. (It works out to about eight cents per liter in American coinage, compared to San Francisco's proposed two cents-per-ounce tax.)
The new tax could have implications beyond the pocketbooks and waistlines of thirsty Mexican citizens as well: shares of FEMSA, the largest beverage company in Mexico and Latin America took a hit when the news broke last week. Likewise, executives from Arca Continental SAB, Latin America's second-largest bottler of Coca-Cola, hinted during an earnings call last week that they could start swapping out sugar for "more fructose" in order to save money. Per Coca-Cola's licensing agreements, individual bottlers are allowed a certain amount of leeway in their formulas.
That said, the idea of fructose-free Mexican Coke may already be a myth: back in 2010, a study performed at USC's Keck School of Medicine determined that a hecho en Mexico glass bottle coke purchased in east L.A. contained only fructose and glucose — suggesting the "sugar" on the ingredient list was actually high fructose corn syrup rather than the pure cane stuff we always assumed we were getting.