January 11, 2006
Coke with Sugar?
Posted by Christine Hurt

Have you ever tasted Coke with sugar?  Depending on your age, you probablyCoke  have, but not for about 20 years.  Coke in the U.S. is made with high fructose corn syrup and has been for some time.  In Mexico, Coke is still made with cane sugar and bottled in little glass bottles.  And it tastes better.

The WSJ has an article today reporting that Coca-Cola is trying to fight retailers importing Mexican Coke for sale in the U.S.  The soda company claims that in taste tests consumers can't tell the difference and that former Mexican residents are buying it for nostalgia purposes, but I throw the flag.  It tastes different, and it tastes better.  In Texas, every once in awhile someone would give you a Mexican Coke, and it tastes better.  I won't drink a full-calorie Coke unless someone offers me a Mexican Coke because only then is the calorie trade-off worth it to me.  But, Coca-Cola is fighting this bootlegging because Coke makes more money off of corn syrup Coke because of its distribution agreements.

Why doesn't Coca-Cola sell Mexican Coke here?  I'm not sure how they would market it.  Sure, there is Diet Coke with Nutrasweet and Diet Coke with Splenda, but I'm not sure if consumers want to be reminded that they are drinking "Coke with sugar" or especially "Coke with corn syrup."  If some brilliant marketer can pull that off, and charge more for Coke with sugar, then Coca-Cola should try it.

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Comments (42)

1. Posted by Dave! on January 11, 2006 @ 11:54 | Permalink

I virtually never drink non-diet drinks anymore, but anyone who can't taste the difference between Coke with sugar and Coke with High Fructose Corn Syrup probably can't tell the difference between aged cheddar and Eazy-Cheez.

I don't think the reason Coke doesn't market it here is lack of a slogan; as you mentioned, it's economic. If they did, Americans would vastly prefer it, and sales of Coke with Corn Syrup would plummet to nothing, which would cost Coke money. Of course, they could just switch to sugar anyway and hike the price, but then they'd have to mess with the Corn Lobby, and you do *not* want to mess with the Corn Lobby. They'll mess you up.


2. Posted by Ted on January 11, 2006 @ 12:44 | Permalink

There was a stretch of time in the last decade when Kosher-for-Passover Coca-Cola was made with real sugar. May even still be in some bottling districts.

I don't see why Coca-Cola couldn't sell "Coca-Cola Premium" at a higher price point. I don't think they're scared of the corn lobby--the corn lobby doesn't stop them from using cane sugar in Mexico or beet sugar in Europe. It may be the aficionado population isn't sufficiently large to justify it, though Coca-Cola clearly isn't afraid of wide-ranging brand extensions or populating store shelves with lots of SKUs. Or, it may be that they do want to maintain the fiction that the product is universally equivalent, and the cost to puncturing that illusion outweighs the benefit of the revenue from price-discrimination. Or, finally, it may be that the taste difference comes from the glass containers, and glass containers just aren't politically acceptable.


3. Posted by Greg on January 11, 2006 @ 12:46 | Permalink

They could sell it for twice as much, in the old glass bottles, and call it "Coke Nostalgia" or something.


4. Posted by Adam Vandenberg on January 11, 2006 @ 13:14 | Permalink

The best ad idea for sugar vs HFCS I've heard is to have an empty table.

On the left, pour a small neat pile of brown sugar crystals.

On the right, pour a mess of thick HFCS goo.


There IS a market for sugar-base sodas, or at least there seems to be, as there are more and more of them in the supermarket isles. And not just at Whole Foods.

(I like Boylan's Sugar Cane Cola:
http://bevnet.com/reviews/boylans/
Tastes different from Coke (and Pepsi), but has a great cola taste.)


5. Posted by Steve on January 11, 2006 @ 19:19 | Permalink

FYI, every year in the weeks before Passover, Coke still does manufacture a "Kosher-for-Passover" Coke that is made with sugar, not corn syrup (the similarity between corn and forbidden grains was close enough to cause corn products -- syrup included -- to become a prohibited food on Passover in many circles). How do you tell which bottles or cans are kosher and which aren't? Look on the label, can, or cap of a "Kosher-for-Passover" Coke and you'll find a distinctive "KP" or like mark (possibly even Hebrew lettering) indicating that it's "Kosher-for-Passover". Generally, however, you'll only find these formulations in the few weeks preceding Passover in kosher supermarkets or select grocery chains that service the orthodox Jewish communities.


6. Posted by Chris on January 23, 2006 @ 14:46 | Permalink

COke with cane sugar is definitely better tasting...but those who agree are in the minority...
High Fructose Corn Syrup will be our society's next "nicotine" .......
It is highly addictive and gets people hooked on thier products...not to mention is the fastest way to obesity....
KRAFT FOODS uses HFCS in almost every product...It is owned by Philip Morris...so they found a new way to get people addicted and make money off us....Kraft Foods has aquired many other brands from Nabisco, Oscar Mayer...ect..ect .....and still aquiring...
Heck, what is HFCS doing in my Sald Dressing !!! In Hot Dogs!!! In bread!!!!
It's everywhere now... You have to make a great massive effort to avoid products containing HFCS...totaly sorrounded...
Your body will be much better off without the HFCS...

Chris


7. Posted by Catrina on March 29, 2006 @ 17:48 | Permalink

I found Kosher Coca-Cola at the grocery today. Yellow cap, marked KP. To my dismay it didn't contain cane sugar. It had Sucralose which is the same as Splenda. Yuck! Trading one poison for another. So am on the hunt for Mexican Coke.


8. Posted by Catrina on March 29, 2006 @ 17:57 | Permalink

Well I stand corrected - it contains sucrose not sucralose. Sucrose is the white table sugar? I thought the original formula had brown cane sugar.


9. Posted by James on March 30, 2006 @ 18:01 | Permalink

Cane sugar, whether brown or white, is sucrose. Sugar from sugar beets is also sucrose. Same stuff, different plant.


10. Posted by James Pinkerton on April 9, 2006 @ 10:20 | Permalink

Other large companies can make Kosher for Passover products available nationwide. Why can't the Coca-Cola Company?

Maybe they would find out regular Coke is "NOT the real thing".

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