Junk Food Dumping and Coca-Cola’s Mexico Invasion

Today, Mexicans come fourth in the world for the amount of highly processed food they eat per person, at 212 kilos per year. According to Kantar WorldPanel, Mexican families or households spent 30 percent of their expenses on junk food in 2014, with the lower and middle classes spending the highest proportion. This sort of diet is a recent change, and not part of Mexican culture, as many people assume.

A new Coca-Cola-run shop opens roughly every eight hours in Mexico. But despite this full-scale corporate takeover of Mexico’s cities, towns and diet, most people believe the severe obesity and diabetes problems here are down to local culture and individual choices. They would be wrong.

A block and a half from where I live there’s an Oxxo, a corner store owned by Coca-Cola that stocks chips, biscuits, soft drinks, nachos, cigarettes, beer, bottled water and sweets. There are two more Oxxos two and four blocks to the west, and another one a few blocks to the south. With predictable stock, bill-paying facilities and open 24 hours, even the most health-conscious and anti-consumerist people go to an Oxxo a few days a week.

The Coca-Cola Colonization

Oxxos have grown from 300 shops in Mexico in 1990 to nearly 16,000, and FEMSA (Coca-Cola) claims it serves 10 million people a day. Ironically, in addition to its chain of retail service stations, and its real estate division which aids the block-by-block colonization, FEMSA also has a health division which includes four pharmacy chains, acquired in 2013 and 2015. The Oxxos stock their own brands, including Heineken beer (minority owner) and Santa Clara milk. Together with the 400,000 other corner shops around the country—which also stock Coca-Cola and focus exclusively on junk food—the Oxxos are a saturation strategy that makes no-nutritious fake-food the easiest product or service to obtain.

Reinforcing that is the growth in chain restaurants at twice that of independent ones, and the massive informal workforce that buy junk food at wholesale prices and sell it outside stations, at bus stops and on buses, throughout the streets, at schools, in plazas and parks, and outside hospitals. Many of the street food vendors get supplies like cheese, mayonnaise and ground beef from Walmart’s Sam’s Club.

This fake-food colonization is bolstered by aggressive marketing strategies where products are packaged with pictures of colorful natural foods, though little real food is left in them, and absurdly, U.S. brands are associated with high quality. A McDonald’s burger costs around double the price of a street vendor’s burger, and brands like Snickers cost double that of the local equivalent.

Read full original article at Alternet.