The Sweet Reason Mexican Coca-Cola Tastes Different

If you've ever ordered a bottle of Coca-Cola at Chipotle, you've probably noticed that the soda inside tastes slightly different from what you're used to. Most customers assume this is due to the fact that it comes in a glass bottle instead of a plastic one or a can. While glass is a more stable material so it doesn't absorb flavors from the drink like aluminum or impart flavors into it like plastic as explained in Popular Science, the difference in taste has to do with the soda itself rather than the container it comes in.

The Coca-Cola that comes in a glass bottle — the kind you can easily get at Chipotle, some bodegas, and smaller grocery stores — is actually Mexican Coca-Cola. Along with the fact that it's produced in Mexico, the formula of the soda is also slightly different. Instead of high fructose corn syrup, Mexican Coca-Cola is made with real cane sugar, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Both are sweet ingredients, but corn syrup is a byproduct of cornstarch while cane sugar comes from the sugar cane plant, resulting in different flavors that yield two different versions of Coca-Cola.

Why Mexican Coca-Cola is made with real sugar

It's easy to assume that Mexican Coca-Cola is made with "real" sugar because Mexico cares more about the quality of its ingredients than the United States does. But despite the fact that high fructose corn syrup has a reputation for being worse than natural sugar, its nutritional value isn't the reason it's excluded from Mexican Coca-Cola. The truth is that Mexico is a major producer of cane sugar (per Smithsonian Magazine).

Because sugar is so abundant in Mexico, it's much more cost-effective for the country's Coca-Cola to be sweetened with it. If high fructose corn syrup were used instead, local sugar cane farmers would also lose business, especially considering Mexico's average soda consumption is the highest in the world, according to the Mexican Daily Post. Recognizing this advantage, Mexico has tried to impose high tariffs on high fructose corn syrup – once in 1997, and again in 2002. Though both attempts were shut down by the World Trade Organization, Mexico still continues to make its Coca-Cola with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup in order to keep its sugar industry alive.

American Coca-Cola used to be similar to Mexican Coke

In 2005, the Coca-Cola company started distributing Mexican Coke in the United States, but there was a point in time in which this wouldn't have even been necessary. Up until 1980, American Coke and Mexican Coke were essentially the same product, as they were both made with cane sugar. But that year, the formula of American Coca-Cola underwent a slight change. As prices shifted and corn syrup became cheaper, it replaced half of the sugar in Coke, according to Mother Jones.

Two years after the switch, the company introduced Diet Coke, a new variety that replaced both the sugar and the corn syrup with aspartame as documented by the American History Museum. By 1984, sugar was completely phased out of American Coca-Cola, and the company began sweetening regular Coke entirely with high fructose corn syrup. Coca-Cola Mexico never ended up adopting this change, and to this day it's still made with cane sugar according to the original recipe.

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