Coke Dealers

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I had always assumed the nationwide market for Mexican Coca-Cola was, as it is here in the city of Saint Francis, strictly a sub rosa, back-room-of-the-bodega-or-taqueria phenomenon. But now reader Russ A. Dewey sends in this Fort Worth Star-Telegram article (reprinted in the great trade pub Beverage World) indicating the light-black market for the original, glass-bottled, cane-sugar-based beauty is much more mainstream than I thought:

Kroger supermarkets in Houston, Central Market in Fort Worth and Safeway stores in Denver offer the imported cola, which they receive from a national wholesaler, Gourmet Award Foods. Gourmet is a unit of Koninklijke Wessanen, a large Dutch-based dairy and cereal maker with annual revenues of $3 billion.

My question: Why haven't the wizards of the Peachtree State made any effort to cash in on decades of interest in real-sugar Coke? You'd think the relentless upscaling of American tastes would make Coca-Cola PremiumĀ® a slam-dunk.

(By the way, though I am a fan of neither newfangled Coke flavor experiments nor vanilla, I had some Vanilla Coke recently, and it was aces. I recommend it.)

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  1. Vanilla Coke and Kahlua is my currently-favored girlie drink. Add vodka for drunkening, if you must, but I just drinks it for the taste.

  2. I make my own vanilla coke; it tastes better. šŸ™‚

  3. Mexican Coke is ubiquitous in South Tucson. And muy cheap. It never occured to me that it might be “black market”…though maybe it’s tolerated because the authorities are much more concerned with other imports…

  4. Try the vanilla coke with rum.

  5. Agreed, vanilla coke mixes VERY well with both Vodka and Rum. (Not at the same time, though.)

  6. I’ve noticed import, glass-bottled Coke in a few Cincinnati-area grocery stores.

  7. I’ve noticed import, glass-bottled Coke in a few Cincinnati-area grocery stores.

  8. I make my own vanilla coke too… just add vanilla schnopps to regular coke, great stuff! And I had the Mexican coke once… maybe my tastes aren’t very sophisticated, but I didn’t find anything particularly rewarding about it. And I agree that Vanilla Coke is very good.

  9. And there’s the real-sugar Coke that appears in 2-liter variety in the grocery stores in NYC around Passover… kosher for Passover drinks don’t have corn syrup in them. Yeah!

  10. meep,
    What makes corn syrup non-kosher?

  11. meep,

    I was just thinking about Kosher Coke. Here in Chicago, it often pops up in Skokie. I always try to pick up a few.

    I don’t know why it needs sugar cane to be kosher, but I was looking at the site
    http://www2.coca-cola.com/contactus/faq/labeling.html

    And was much amused by the following:
    How can Coca-Cola classic be the original formula when it now contains high fructose corn syrup?
    Coca-Cola classic is the original formula. Because there is no noticeable taste difference, bottlers have the option of using either high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), beet sugar or cane sugar, depending on availability and cost.

    I don’t know about anyone else, and maybe it’s because I drink CC when I am in Mexico, but I notice the difference. HFCS tastes chalky to me.

  12. Ruthless,
    Corn syrup being a product of a grain and could in theory support a colony of yeast (leavening) is considered a not kosher for passover ingredient.

    If a drink made from sugar supports a minute yeast colony, there is no violation of the Passover dietary restrictions. I have been told that some fermentation occurs is every pop, so corn syrup is out, but sugar is fine.

    Hope that helps.

  13. If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d look for a reference, but the upshot is that HFCS is cheaper than regular cane sugar here in the US, that’s why major soda producers use it here (some wacky tariff and price-support stuff, IIRC). Overseas (Mexico, too :), sugar is cheaper, so that’s what is used.

    And yes, cane sugar Coke tastes different than HFCS Coke. I live in San Diego and go batty when I can find Mexican coke.

  14. Wow, now that I RTFA, they even state that HFCS is cheaper. Yea for me!

  15. So, the introduction of “New Coke” was not the failure it was made out to be, but rather a calculated gambit to remove original coke from the shelves and it’s memory from the taste buds of the American consumer.

    When the so-called Classic Coke was “re” introduced, the old secret fomula was changed to the cheaper HFCS.

    Original Coke always bit the back of my throat in a way that today’s product doesn’t. I miss that old tingle. Too bad I live next to the Canadian border and not the Mexican.

  16. OK, I’ve been waiting for someone else to mention this…
    The only reason HFCS is cheaper than sugar cane, is protectionest trade supports for Sugar, that raise the price, and (as with Coke) in the end lower demand for the product being protected.

  17. I’ll bet Coca-Cola has done research on this, and I’ll bet not one person in a hundred could tell the difference between a drink made from sugar and one made with HFCS.
    That’s the purpose of the carbon dioxide: to snooker your sniffer.

  18. If you can’t find real-sugar Coke in your area, but you have a World Market near you, go to their foods aisle and look for Cane Cola. Close to the same thing, but more expensive.

  19. If I want a Coke, I seek out the “Bottled In Mexico” stuff in the “International” section of my local mega-market, or at a Mexican-run, migrant-worker friendly mom-and-pop store. Not only is it the true Classic real-sugar formula, but it comes in real glass bottles. Coke tastes best in a real glass bottle.

  20. Here in Phoenix, I’ve only seen this Cole in the Mexican restaurants that cater to…well, actual Mexicans. I prefer the Sangria or Tamarind soda myself.

    But it’s cool to here this is a national phenomenon.

  21. HFCS is also cheaper here because of huge subsidies for growing corn, as I understand. I believe the subsidies have something to do with ethynol that they add to our gas for part of the year, but I may be mistaken on that.

    Obviously, I’m not really sure about anything, but I think I’m right anyway. šŸ™‚

  22. I had sugar-based Coke in Malaysia some years back. It was like a flashback to my youth. Kind of apropos for an American in SE Asia, don’t you think? It was obviously better than the corn syrup variety from sip one. Room service probably thought I was crazy, because I ordered bottles (glass!) and bottles (yes, glass!) of the stuff. I think I had some more of the same at McDonald’s while in Kuala Lumpur, but the Malaysians, like all non-Americans, have not discovered ice. Incidentally, I did eat native most of the time I was there, before someone chastizes me. Mmmmmm, satays.

  23. Skeptikos,

    You ain’t whistling Dixie. The sugar lobby has pulled some political tricks down here in the Sunshine/Windy State that just amaze me. Sugar is so obviously something we should not be bothering with in the U.S–it’s just not cost effective without loads of help. I’ve always thought that we’ll see a radical change once Cuba gets out from under the boot.

  24. NoStar, that’s a fantastic theory. My hat’s off to you.

    But where is the Lonewacko? We’ve got unlicensed Mexican product coming across the border quasi-legally and taking business away from the American-made original. Who’s standing up for Uncle Sam?

  25. When I was in Iraq, IIRC the middle eastern cokes had real sugar, but the taste was always a bit off because the cans were exposed to temps above 130 degrees on a regular basis. Does anybody else notice that coke tends to get kinda skunky & chalky if it’s overheated?

  26. Fascinating stuff (I read every comment).

    Just a bit off topic but A&W Root Beer on draft is remarkably better than A&W out of a can or bottle. Maybe they use real sugar or maybe it’s the barrel, sort of like the difference between draft beer and canned.

    Big Shrug.

    Now, gotta find me some MexiCoke.

  27. Didn’t the switch from sugar to corn syrup happen fairly close to the New Coke debacle? If so, maybe it was all part of Coke’s master plan to distract us from the real change. I miss that addictive feeling I had for Coke as a child šŸ™

    I think there’s a definite and obvious difference in taste, but the only contemporaneous comparison I’ve made was between U.S. Coke and the Malaysian variety. I suppose sugar vs. corn syrup might not be the only thing that was different, so more research is needed. Before Reason rents a laboratory, I do recall hearing that taste comparison tests with highly sweetened drinks are extremely difficult to perform, because the sugar overwhelms the taste buds.

  28. Oh yeah, and nobody has mentioned that supposedly HFC is really bad for you, worse than real sugar?

  29. Pro Libertate and Guy,
    It’s the phosphoric acid that rots your teeth isn’t it?

    We need scientist thoreau back to bail us out of the swamp here.

  30. Doesn`t Diet Coke use a formula that is the same as or similar to that of new Coke?

  31. Ruthless, I drank Coke like water for most of my youth, and I’ve never had any cavities. Then again, my addiction may be masking the pain of massive decay. Incidentally, I’ve never been fat or obese, either, so maybe I wasn’t drinking it right. Hmmm.

    Here’s a couple of quick answers on the subject from Snopes and Shirley’s Hygiene Rules for Soda Drinkers at Dentists.com. I saw a reference to the use of phosphoric acid by dentists for the purpose of etching teeth–whoa. I drink less Coke these days, but I guess my orange juice habit is dangerous, too.

  32. About A&W, if you go to an A&W fast food restaurant, they make the root beer at the store in a big stock pot. If I remember correctly, it was on the order of 20 gallons of water, 50 pounds of sugar (real sugar!) and then some syrup.

  33. Oh, my God, am I ever clueless.

    I live in Houston and I sometimes buy the glass-bottled Coke at Kroger. You mean that is the Mexican Coke? I have NOT been paying attention. Sheesh.

  34. Very interesting reading as I have been a diehard opponent of HFCS for many years. Dr. Atkins, of lowcarb dieting fame informed us about the underhandedness of the sugar industry, but the whole HFCS is a much bigger scam and coverup all in the name of the Almighty dollar. Books like Sugar Blues and even going further back to the old film star Gloria Swanson is information on sugar way ahead of its time. Now, as a connoisseur of sweeteners, I see that given all the artificial sweeteners and HFCS, sugar is not so bad after all. It is NATURAL. The only rule here is every doctor’s lament – “moderation.” Our government has not gotten around to giving us all the facts yet because they don’t want to shake up the economy, but they are ever so carefully hinting at all these truths about all the sweeteners and how they effect our health. My husband and I recall very distinctly the old coke/new coke days. It was indeed a scam to confuse us so they could get away with going to the “sludge” they call HFCS, and it is sludge. It is a “by-product,” and where do we see by-products? In our pet foods. I remember when they brought back the old coke as the Classic coke and I remarked to my husband it just was not in any way the same. They duped us. I only recently have put the pieces together, but always have suspected. We should all rebel – I have! I will not buy anything with HFCS in it because it is poison. This has been a very good sight for me which finally confirmed my suspicions. Thank you all.

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