Coca-Cola’s political and policy influence in Mexico: understanding the role of institutions, interests and divided society

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In response to Mexico’s burgeoning industrial epidemics of obesity and type-2 diabetes, triggered in part by sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages’ ability to readily market their products and influence consumption, the government has responded through a variety of non-communicable disease (NCD) policies. Nevertheless, major industries, such as Coca-Cola, have been able to continuously obstruct the prioritization of those policies targeting the consumption, marketing and sale of their products. To better understand why this has occurred, this article introduces a political science agenda-setting framework and applies it to the case of Coca-Cola in Mexico. Devised from political science theory and subsequently applied to the case of Coca-Cola in Mexico, my framework, titled Institutions, Interests, and Industry Civic Influence (IPIC), emphasizes Coca-Cola’s access to institutions, supportive presidents and industry efforts to hamper civic mobilization and pressures for greater regulation of the soda industry. Methodologically, I employ qualitative single case study analysis, combining an analysis of 26 case study documents and seven in-depth stake-holder interviews. My proposed analytical framework helps to underscore the fact that Coca-Cola’s influence is not solely shaped by the corporation’s increased economic importance, but more importantly, its access to politicians, institutions and strategies to divide civil society. Additionally, my proposed framework provides several real-world policy recommendations for how governments and civil society can restructure their relationship with the soda industry, such as the government’s creation of laws prohibiting the industry’s ability to influence NCD policy and fund scientific research.

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