Mexican soda
Study says soda sales in Mexico down due to tax.

DANA POINT, CALIF. — The head of Mexico’s national sugar chamber questioned the validity of a recent study that said a tax on caloric sweetened drinks in Mexico had significantly curtailed beverage purchases in that country over a two-year period.

A study published Feb. 22 in the journal Health Affairs said Mexico’s 1 peso-per-liter soda tax cut sweetened beverage purchases by 5.5% in 2014 and another 4.2% in 2015, and that purchases of unsweetened carbonated drinks, water, juices and dairy drinks increased 2.1% over the same two-year period.

“The tax is not working to decrease consumption of soda,” said Humberto Jasso Torres, director general of Mexico’s National Chamber of the Sugar and Alcohol Industries, at the International Sweetener Colloquium held in Dana Point on Feb. 28.

Revenue from the tax has continued to increase, suggesting there has been no decline in soda sales, Mr. Torres said. Instead, the tax is an additional burden on consumers, taking money they may be using for other things.

The International Council of Beverages Associations told The New York Times that the Mexican tax was hurting low-income and middle-income families in Mexico, that thousands of jobs have been lost and that obesity rates have not gone down as proponents claimed they would.

“Meanwhile, beverage companies and the government of Mexico have been working together to combat obesity in ways that encourage people to reduce calories they get from all foods and beverages,” the Council said.

The study published Feb. 22 was conducted by the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico and the University of North Carolina. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Carolina Population Center and Bloomberg Philanthropies, which is a major supporter of soda taxes and contributed millions to get the Mexican tax passed a few years ago.

“At the global level, findings on the sustained impact over two years of taxes on beverages in Mexico may encourage other countries to use fiscal policies to reduce the consumption of unhealthy beverages along with other interventions to reduce the burden of chronic diseases,” the study’s authors said as reported by Politico.

Beverage taxes in several forms have been approved by voters, implemented by local governments or are in the proposal stage in several U.S. cities and states, with partial funding by the Bloomberg organization in several cases. Some other countries, including the United Kingdom and South Africa, are planning to implement beverage taxes on a national level.

In response to a question about soda taxes at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York annual conference in Boca Raton, Fla., on Feb. 23, Kirk Tanner, PepsiCo, Inc. president and chief operating officer, North America Beverages, called soda taxes a problem. He noted that several markets have implemented taxes that fall into two categories: One where there are real health concerns, and the other where cities and jurisdictions are trying to close their budget. He said PepsiCo and other companies were working with the American Beverage Association to fight soda taxes because they are discriminatory and don't make sense.