The untold truth of Mexican Coke

The untold truth of Mexican Coke

It seems that the soda aisle of most grocery stores these days, next to the cans and plastic two-liter bottles of Coca-Cola, you'll find a selection of long-necked glass bottles of Coke. Chances are that these are bottles of Mexican Coke, a version of the world-renowned soft drink made south of the border.

It's not only the packaging, which still features Spanish text and proudly proclaims that it's hecho en Mexico, that makes it different from the American version either — the actual recipe is substantially different. Coca-Cola made in Mexico is made with cane sugar, whereas Coca-Cola from the United States is manufactured using high-fructose corn syrup (via Refinery 29).

Everyone seems to have their own (very strong) opinion on which version of the soda they prefer. While some people swear by Mexican Coke and refuse to drink the American-made stuff, James Beard Award winner J. Kenji López-Alt once carried out a tasting test with friends which suggested that the vast majority of them (seven of eight) chose the taste and aroma American Coke over its Mexican counterpart (via Serious Eats).

The truth behind the ingredients of Mexican Coke

The untold truth of Mexican Coke


One reason for the discrepancy in ingredients is a simmering trade war between the United States and Mexico (via Smithsonian Magazine). The Mexican soda industry has always preferred sugar in its beverages because it aids the country's sugar industry.

In 1997, Mexico passed a tariff on high-fructose corn syrup to prop up the sugar industry because of the competition posed by corn syrup. The United States, which exports large amounts of corn syrup, did not take kindly to the tariff — they brought the case to the World Trade Organization, which ruled in favor of the U.S.

Five years later, Mexico tried again to make corn syrup prohibitively expensive. Again, the United States went to the WTO and again, the WTO ruled in favor of the United States. Even after these legal setbacks, Mexico appears to be doing something right to keep high fructose corn syrup out of their soda industry, because Mexican Coke which is exported to the United States continues to be made with cane sugar.