Classic Coke output cut on tight sugar supply

THE tightness in local sugar supply has forced beverage maker Coca-Cola Philippines to reduce the production of its Coca-Cola Original Taste to stretch its remaining sugar stockpile.

Coca-Cola confirmed to the BusinessMirror that it is experiencing “market availability issues” with its Coca-Cola Original Taste product due to the company’s current sugar stockpile.

“Coca-Cola is working closely with the Sugar Regulatory Administration and all other relevant stakeholders to urgently address the requirement for refined sugar in the market,” the company said in a statement sent to the BusinessMirror.

“While this is in the process, the company has decided to prioritize production of specific Stock Keeping Units [SKUs] to ensure an uninterrupted supply to our customers and consumers,” it added.

The “prioritization” of beverage production is caused by the current tight supply of refined sugar, according to Coca-Cola. In producing the Coca-Cola Original Taste, the company said it uses 100-percent sugar, which it sources from local sugar producers.

Reports received by the BusinessMirror indicated that some of the country’s fast-food restaurants have stopped selling the classic Coke for more than a week now.

A notice posted on McDonald’s web site stated that the delivery of “regular Coke” and “Coke Float” products “are temporarily not available.”  “In the meantime, you can still enjoy Sprite, Coke Zero and other drinks with your McDo favorites,” it added.

However, Luzon-based branch managers of McDonalds’ interviewed by the BusinessMirror confirmed that the classic Coke is not also available even for dine-in customers. The managers did not disclose though the reason behind this and just said that they ran “out of stock.” Some branch managers of Jollibee in Luzon also confirmed to the BusinessMirror that their stocks of classic Coke have been depleted. However, they said they were not allowed to disclose the reason for this.

Consumers, like Efigenio Toledo IV, have also observed that the Coca-Cola Original Taste is no longer available in the menu of some local fast-food restaurants. “Last week, because of the typhoon, I was forced to work at home and because of heavy rains, I opted to buy food from Jollibee via delivery,” Toledo said.

“Regular Coke was still available from Monday to Wednesday, but from Thursday to Friday, I was told that the only drink available was Sprite. Then over the weekend, they told me that their only available drink was iced tea,” he added.

Jensen Arinto, a journalism student, told the BusinessMirror that during the past week, he dined in four fast-food restaurants that did not offer classic Coke. “These are McDonald’s in Manila, Jollibee in Maypajo, Chowking in Malabon and KFC along the North Luzon Expressway.”

Consumers also voiced their concerns about the disappearance of the classic Coke in their favorite fast-food restaurants on Twitter.

“Today’s observation: walang coke [regular] sa lahat ng McDo at Jollibee” Hans Castro (@hanscastroo) wrote on June 15. Twitter user @Alyxandraa said on June 14: “OK. Isang linggo ng walang coke sa McDo. I need my Coke.”

Coca-Cola’s assurance

However, Coca-Cola clarified that the Coca-Cola Original Taste is still available in local supermarkets, retailers and other restaurants.

Coca-Cola also assured Filipino consumers that they would still enjoy their other products which use a different sweetening formula and not fully dependent on sugar. These products include: Coca-Cola Zero, Sprite, Royal, Sparkle, Sarsi, Wilkins and Minute Maid.

“Rest assured that Coca-Cola Original Taste will be made available as soon as possible,” the company said. “We look forward to once again serving our customers and consumers the refreshing taste of our Coca-Cola Original Taste. We thank our customers and consumers for their continued patronage of our products and for bearing with us,” it added. Last month Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines Director for Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Juan Lorenzo Tañada confirmed to the BusinessMirror that the company is experiencing sugar supply issues.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said the country’s total sugar production in the current crop year ending August 31 may fall below the SRA’s estimated output of 2.27 MMT by as much as 200,000 MT. This means that total sugar production may settle at around 2.07 MMT, 17.2 percent lower than the 2.5 MMT produced in the previous crop year. The government has allowed the private sector, including beverage firms, to import 200,000 MT of sugar to plug the supply shortfall and stabilize prices.

The wholesale price of refined sugar as of June 8 has reached an average of P2,854 per 50-kilogram bag (LKg), 41.52 percent higher than the P2,106.67 average quotation at the start of crop year 2017-2018.





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