‘Alarming’ Canadean data shows low-calorie soda support slump in Mexico

By Ben BOUCKLEY

- Last updated on GMT

Mexico has the highest rate of childhood obesity worldwide (Picture Copyright: Flickr/Wonderlane)
Mexico has the highest rate of childhood obesity worldwide (Picture Copyright: Flickr/Wonderlane)

Related tags Soft drink Obesity

Canadean has pointed to ‘alarming’ data showing that low calorie sodas are losing market share in Mexico, despite its dubious distinction of having the highest rate of childhood obesity worldwide.

Low calorie drinks now account for just over 6% of total soft drinks volumes (excluding packaged water), Canadean said, down from almost 7% in 2011, and are also shedding volume.

“Canadean can reveal that this compares with a 27% share for low-calorie soft drinks just north of the border in the US, and over 20% across Western Europe,"​ beverage analyst Ray Rowlands wrote.

Rowlands told BeverageDaily.com that the Mexican government was making efforts to counter obesity issues, "though maybe a little late and with a lack of suitable supervision over implementation of measures in school. However, its more the apathy of the general public".

Health regulations and a growing consumer awareness of obesity had driven interest in healthier beverage categories, he added.

"Nevertheless, products such as carbonates reported steady growth in 2012 due to product promotions and a cheaper price per liter than a number of other categories,"​ Rowlands said.

Enough low-calorie SKUs?

Meanwhile, low calorie SKUs did exist, he said, suggesting big brands could not be accused of apathy: "Its not a lack of brand options that is hindering the progress of low calorie drinks​. Take low calorie carbonates. Big names are there: Pepsi Light. Max, Coca-Cola Light, Zero, etc. They just ain't all that popular."

Rowlands added: It is possible that the taint often associated with low calorie artificial sweeteners is to blame, but I think it really is more of an apathy issue. Consumer education is the key in my mind

The Canadean analyst insisted that Mexican consumer product education was “in serious need of re-enforcement” ​if the country wanted to successfully tackle the obesity issue.

With a population of 115m people – with more than 25% under 15 – Mexico also has the highest the second-highest adult obesity rate in the US, and diabetes linked to obesity is the number one killer.

Government action to tackle obesity crisis includes only allowing water to preschool and elementary students, while older children only have access to vetted sweet beverages in small servings.

But Rowlands warned that enforcement varied according to the school in question, while the full spectrum of ‘unhealthy’ beverages was readily available from stores and unlicensed sellers nearby.

“These new guidelines and general public fears should be dramatically shifting the focus of Mexico’s soft drinks industry in favour of low calorie drinks and packaged water, but they are not,”​ he said.

Nevertheless, 20cl and 25cl soda sales in cartons and glass bottles, 25cl, 33cl and 50cl PET bottles “significantly exceeded”​ total soft drinks market growth in 2012, Rowlands said, as kids switch to smaller measures.

But packaged water volumes grew only 2% last year – after strong 2011 growth – only slightly ahead of CSDs and well behind juice-based drinks, iced/RTD tea and coffee drinks and sports drinks.

A March poster study by Mozaffarian et al. presented at an American Heart Association Scientific Session said sugar-sweetened beverages may be linked to around 180,000 deaths globally in 2010.

Correlative evidence does not prove cause and effect

Using 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study data, the team linked sugary drink consumption to BMI changes leading to 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 from CVD and 6,000 from cancer in 2010.

Mexico, which has one of the highest yearly per capita consumption of sugary beverages worldwide (140+ liters) had the highest death rate associated with their consumption, the researchers said, linking 318 deaths/million adults linked to sugar-sweetened beverages (24,000 deaths).

Discussing the study, Professor Rachel Johnson from the University of Vermont stressed that the evidence was correlative, demonstrating associations with consumption, overweight and obesity, then death, rather than proving cause and effect.

The American Beverage Association (ABA), also attacked the poster session upon this basis, and said the study not been peer reviewed

But Johnson did link excess consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks to higher blood pressure, and increased risk of coronary heart disease and obesity.

“One of the problems with sugar-sweetened beverages is that we don’t seem to compensate as well for the calories therein as we do from solid foods. When we consume sugar-sweetened beverages we don’t reduce the amount of food that we consume,”​ she warned.

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