The Mexican version of Coca-Cola, which is made with real cane sugar, rather than high-fructose corn syrup, has become the beverage of choice among trendy New Yorkers.
The U.S. uses the cheaper sweetener in its sodas because of government-imposed importation laws that make sugar more expensive here than in any other country.
But fans of Mexican Coke, as it is often called because it is bottled south of the border, say that this “purer” soda is superior in both taste and quality – even if it costs a little extra.
Indeed, a Facebook page dedicated to the non-American version of Coke has amassed nearly 10,000 fans.
“It’s better,” says the fan page.
Cane sugar Coke hasn’t been widely produced in the U.S. since 1985, when the soda company switched it out for high-fructose corn syrup.
Since the federal government provides a subsidy for corn farmers, there is an abundance of corn at a low price, much of which is converted into high-fructose corn syrup.
The syrup, which tastes nearly identical to real sugar, is then used to sweeten everything from sodas and fruit-flavored drinks to cereals and yogurts.
Cane sugar Coke has become a cult favorite in recent years, however, with grocery stores and restaurants across the country choosing to import the drink from Mexico.
In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the hipster capital of New York City, loyal fans of the sugared drink pay up to $3.50 for a bottle.
Adalis Velez, owner of East Williamsburg taco joint La Gringa, which sells Mexican Coke for $2.25, told DNAInfo: “Our customers actually love Mexican Coke.
“At first I thought it was just the hype or the nostalgia of the glass bottle, but after drinking it I realized there was something to all the madness. For me, it’s smoother, sweeter and colder.”
And in May 2011, Momofuku chef David Chang defended his decision to price a bottle of Mexican Coke at $5, after an angry customer complained.
“Mexican Coke = hard to obtain in NYC + costs $” the chef responded via Twitter.
A 2010 Food Politics study suggested that there may not be a difference at all between the two versions.
Researchers who examined a sample of Mexican Coke could not find any sucrose in it, but they “did find plenty of glucose and fructose”.
They noted that their findings meant either that Mexican Coke is also made with high-fructose corn syrup, or that the bottle had aged, causing the sucrose to “invert” into its constituent glucose and fructose.
In any case, Mexican Coke aficionados often praise their preferred drink for being healthier, a claim that is disputed among experts.
A 2004 study, published by researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University, stated that high-fructose corn syrup is a significant factor in America’s obesity epidemic.
However, the Mayo Clinic said: “There’s insufficient evidence to say that high-fructose corn syrup is any less healthy than other types of sweeteners.”
Whether or not it is healthier, tastier, or even any different at all, Mexican Coke’s trend status is undeniable.
Coca-Cola switches their formula to real sugar once a year during Jewish Passover, when observant Jews aren’t allowed to eat corn.