Low calorie drinks lose market share in Mexico, despite obesity figures

Shaun Weston20 May 2013

© Ed Yourdon

According to Canadean research, packaged water volumes in Mexico grew by just 2% last year, only marginally ahead of carbonates and well behind juice-based drinks, iced/RTD tea and coffee drinks, and sports drinks.

Packaged water actually suffered a significant slowdown in its annual rate of development, after volumes rose by over 9% in 2011. However, the institutional sector, which includes schools, maintained a similar level of development in both years. Yet, at just 70 million litres, volumes in Mexico remain tiny in a national market that reaches almost four billion litres.

In comparison, sales of carbonates through institutions did actually fall in 2012, but only by a minute amount. Moreover, although consumption of such drinks is officially discouraged in schools, in reality, the observation of the nutritional guidelines varies by establishment.

Some have adopted and strictly enforced the regulations, while others don't follow them at all. There's also the problem that all manner of food and beverages can be readily bought from stores and unlicensed sellers in close proximity to these institutions.

A related side-effect of the nutritional guideline policy is that there has been a trend in favour of smaller pack types. Increased usage of 20cl and 25cl cartons and glass bottles, for example, significantly exceeded total soft drinks market growth last year as it did for 25cl, 33cl and 50cl PET bottles.

Producers are actively following a strategy of developing smaller packages. Children may still be consuming drinks with high calorie content, but at least consume smaller measures.

Obesity in Mexico

Mexico has a population of 115 million people, with more than a quarter under the age of 15. It also ranks as the country with the highest rate of childhood obesity in the world, and second-highest in adult obesity.

Diabetes is the number one killer, and this chronic health condition is a direct result of the obesity problem. Solving this weight issue is stated as being one of Mexico's top priorities and, as a direct result, the government has introduced new nutritional guidelines.

Preschool and elementary students are now only officially allowed water in school. Older children have access to a wider range of predetermined sweet beverages, but only in small servings.