Many who know me can attest that I constantly extol the virtues of Mexican Coke, Coca-Cola bottled in Mexico in 12 oz. glass bottles and imported into the U.S. by independent distributers. Made with real sugar instead of corn syrup, the taste is more crisp and less fleghmy and does not leave the bitter aftertaste that comes from aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Like many other ridiculously unimportant things that I’m passionate about, I have tried to convince many people of the superiority of Mexican Coke to all other soda options. This has been rather easy to do because just about anyone who tries it can clearly taste it.
In the past few months I have noticed (through sheer observation, nothing scientific) Mexican Coke being made available in more and more stores. Mexican Coke is clearly catching on and is approaching a tipping point (read Malcolm Gladwell’s book) that will change pop sales. For the past year Pepsi has sold (on and off) Pepsi and Mountain Dew Throwback, variations of the regular beverage without corn syrup. Recently Sierra Mist permanently changed their formula to real sugar instead of corn syrup. These still are packaged in the inferior aluminum cans and plastic bottles, options that are much cheaper for the manufacturer but still result in an substandard product. Nevertheless, companies are not just telling us what to like, they are trying harder to make a product to appeal to the type who would go out of his way to seek out Mexican Coke instead of just buying 2 liter bottles of just anything at the supermarket. American Coca-Cola bottlers are not making money off of Mexican Coke, expect more shifts in the market by Coke and Pepsi to try to capture this market of people who actually care about the pop they drink.
The growing popularity of Mexican Coke is leading me to have a greater faith in people. This is a product that has many handicaps in the free market. It’s more expensive than a regular can or bottle, it’s harder to find–rarely available at supermarkets or gas station convenience stores, it requires a tool to open–I carry a bottle opener on my key chain. This is all very inconvenient which means that the people buying Mexican Coke are buying a more expensive, less convenient product simply because it tastes better. There is no advertising telling people to do it either, people who drink it tell other people that it’s better and then they buy it.
This is a big reason why I believe the free market can work better now than ever before. If we realize that us consumers are in charge of it. Spend more for environmentally friendly or higher quality products–corn syrup free sodas, grassfed beef, energy efficient light bulbs, hybrid cars–and the market adapts to make those things more readily available. While I still don’t see Mexican Coke in the gas station convenience store chains where many of us buy most of our soda on the go, I am seeing it a lot in independently owned convenience stores. I don’t mean boutique specialty shops, I’m seeing Mexican Coke in cruddy little gas stations 50 miles outside of Columbus, OH. On the other hand, on Sunday I first saw it at Wal-Mart.
A few days ago, at a gas station in Raymond, OH I saw something that truly surprised me: Mexican Coke selling for less than the cost of a regular Coke. While I may sound like a huge nerd for paying this much attention to something so inconsequential, I believe this is a huge deal. In a country that eats “boneless chicken wings”, where people have seemingly cared little about food quality for a long time, quality is quietly winning a battle.