Coke weathers Philippines tax with switch to 100 percent sugar

Cathy Yang, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 28 2019 11:35 AM | Updated as of Aug 28 2019 04:25 PM

Coca-Cola plans to recycle every can and bottle produced by 2030. ABS-CBN News

 Coca-Cola's "World Without Waste" campaign aims to recycle every can and bottle produced by 2030.

MANILA -- Coca-Cola Philippines said Wednesday it switched to 100 percent sugar in place of high fructose corn syrup and strengthened its water and "still" drinks business to weather the impact of higher taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks.

The beverage giant observed no negative feedback so far with the reformulation which started in 2018, when drinks were taxed P6 per liter if sweetened with sugar and P12 per liter if it contains HFCS, said Coca-Cola Philippines president and general manager Winn Everhart.

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

"We really haven't seen any difference when we think about the sweetness profile of the Philippines. We haven't seen a dramatic change, no real feedback or online sentiment," Everhart said in an exclusive interview with ANC's The Boss.

Coca-Cola "struggled" through the first year of higher taxes in 2018 but sales of its main products, Coke, Royal and Sprite will recover this year, he said.

Sales of Wilkins and Viva water brands and the "still" or non-carbonated category helped "balance some of the losses," he said. Bottled water sales are growing 20 percent annually, he said.

"Our business here in the Philippines is very resilient," Everhart said. "It was a tough year. We struggled, we had our challenges,
thanks to the long history we have here, we do see our business coming back."

Sugar-sweetened drinks were taxed under the first tranche of tax reforms, which also increased duties on fuel and cars. The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion also lowered personal income tax rates.

Coca-Cola Philippines president and general manager Winn Everhart speaks to Cathy Yang for ANC's The Boss

Everhart said Coca-Cola would invest "a couple of hundred of millions of dollars" to expand in the Philippines.

He said the company also started offering beverages in 100-percent recycled PET bottles, identifiable through green caps. Coca-Cola's "World Without Waste" campaign aims to recycle every can and bottle produced by 2030.

"It's very ambitious. We don't know exactly how we're gonna do it. The genius of it is you put a goal out there and you start to put a plan against it and innovation occurs, crowd sourcing occurs, great ideas start to flow and you're able to solve it," he said.