Tuesday 5 March 2013

In Mexico, Coca-Cola is more available than water

Things go better with fresh water
According to Coneval, Mexico’s federal agency for social and political development, 10% of Mexicans lack access to potable water, the majority of them in remote, rural areas.

It could be argued that the reason for this lack of access is the fact that poor Mexicans do not have the purchasing power to create local markets. That is clearly part of the challenge, but doesn’t explain why so many of Mexico's poor lack access to clean drinking water, yet Coke and other commercial “refreshments” are available everywhere – even in the dustiest little town.

Clearly, the global beverage company knows how to distribute products and get a population hooked. Despite its poverty, Mexico is the largest per-capita consumer of Coca-Cola in the world, with the average Mexican drinking more Coke products than the average American, British, Indian, and Chinese person combined. There is even the “Mexican Coke” phenomenon in the United States, where the drink is prized because it is sweetened with cane sugar and not high-fructose corn syrup.

So, why not hire a Coke executive to solve the food distribution problem?

Mexico already tried that. In 2000 it elected Vicente Fox, a former president of Coca-Cola Mexico, to be president of the republic. Fox started at Coca-Cola in 1964, and when he was at the helm of the company he turned it into Mexico’s best-selling soft drink, increasing sales by almost 50%.

His term as president of the republic ended over six years ago.

And here we are.

Coke is everywhere. Mexicans spend $14.3 billion annually on soft drinks. Diabetes kills more people in Mexico than any other disease. Mexico is one of the “fattest” countries in the world, with about two-thirds of the population thought to be overweight.

Yet as many people die here every year from malnutrition as from the drug war, and in some parts it is harder to find a glass of water than a fizzy drink. 

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

For a related story see:

March 5: In Mexico, the drug war makes the headlines, but hunger and diabetes kill just as many

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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