EL PASO -- Just the hint that a new tax on sugary drinks in Mexico might lead bottlers to switch to high fructose corn syrup sparked an outcry on the U.S. side of the border, where “Mexicoke” has a loyal following.
“I do like it. I think it has actual pure cane, sweeter sugar as opposed to the artificial stuff,” said Richard Bonner, a customer at a gourmet burger restaurant that only serves Mexican Coke.
“Most people do love it. Mexican Coke is something they stick with. We do sell it like crazy here,” said Adrian Castillo, manager of Independent Burger.
Many of the customers at the trendy restaurant crave an old-fashioned taste, Coke sweetened with sugar rather than the high fructose corn syrup found in U.S. Cokes.
But after Mexico’s Congress approved a tax on sugary soft drinks to help fight obesity, some bottlers - including the company that supplies Coca Cola for the U.S. - said they may be forced to switch to cheaper high fructose corn syrup.
Just the suggestion left a bitter taste in the mouths of Mexicoke fans in the U.S., who have set up Facebook pages touting the taste of their beloved soft drink.
Others took to twitter to voice their concern.
“Mexicoke Recipe Change Mourned by #RIPMexicanCoke,” tweeted one fan.
The main bottler that supplies Mexican Coca Cola for the U.S., Arca Continental, has since backed away from early comments about switching to high fructose corn syrup. Coca Cola exported to the U.S. will continue to be sweetened with cane sugar.
“It’s very sweet,” said Lettie Ramirez, a Coca Cola drinker in El Paso. She was shopping at Mando’s grocery store which sells authentic ingredients for Mexican food and stocks both Coca Cola and Pepsi bottled in Mexico.
“I guess a lot of people like the old-fashioned-style glass bottles,’ said Jonathan Perez who works in the meat department.
Mando's is is crowded on weekends with shoppers buying cuts of meat for “carne asadas” or family cookouts.
The Mexican Coke and Pepsi displays are strategically placed near the meat counter.
Coke from Mexico in the old fashioned glass bottles was first sold in the U.S in 2005 to cater to immigrants as part of a “nostalgia” marketing campaign.
Border residents used to make regular trips into Mexico to buy Coca Cola or Pepsi by the case. Now the familiar glass bottles are available across the U.S.
And people are willing to pay more for Mexican coke. A bottle at the gourmet burger restaurant costs $3.25.
But while Mexican coke exported to the United States will still be sweetened with cane sugar, bottlers in Mexico already use a mix of high fructose corn syrup and cane sugar.
And the predominant ingredient depends on the cost of the sweetener prompting this tweet from Matt Phillips, a business writer at Quartz.
“If Americans get #Mexicoke made with real sugar, and Mexicans don't, does that make it Americoke?”