Colas lose fizz in Tamil Nadu amidst state-wide boycott

01 March 2017

The fizz of cola brands has ended in Tamil Nadu as shops and consumers have started a spirited campaign to boycott the sugary drinks sold by multinationals Pepsi and Coca Cola and instead promote local and Indian brands.

The agitation against the cola brands that unscrupulously exploit drinking water and deplete ground water sources in their greed for money has, in fact started alongside the `Jallikattu protests', mainly due the realisation that the cola companies would one day leave the countryside parched and dry, without even a drop of water.

Major trader associations in the state have taken up the issue of boycotting products of PepsiCo and Coca Cola after many among the public opted to do away with the colas and retail sales plummeted.
Accordingly, all retailers belonging to the state's largest trade body the Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangam that comprises 6,000 small and medium enterprises and 1.5 million members are boycotting Pepsi and Coke drinks at all small shops and retail stores across the state.

Bigger supermarkets and restaurants, numbering about 5,000, sought more time but a Sangam representative said the association has scheduled a meeting in the evening.

As for retail and food chains, some of whom had paid in advance for the year's supply, will take a decision taken by Thursday.

Besides the huge margin, the cola companies provide the shopkeeper with coolers as part of the deal. If bought separately, some coolers could cost as much as Rs1 lakh depending on the storage capacity.

Even without the trader's action, cola sales at small shops have dwindled to single digits from 50-60 bottles a day in normal days, according to the Sangam.

The boycott by traders, some out of activism and many due to pragmatism, may cost soft drink majors Pepsi and Coke Rs1,400 crore in losses.

Meanwhile, bigger supermarkets and restaurants, numbering about 5,000, that sell cola bottles in bulk, have sought more time to close sales.

''Their initial response is encouraging. They only want some time to work out the boycott plan. I am hopeful that in the evening we will have them also commit a date,'' said AM Vikrama Raja, president of the Sangam.

The boycott decision was first mooted at the massive protests that rocked the state last month and forced politicians to legalise the popular bull-taming sport of Jallikattu.

''The decision was taken to wean away the youth from MNC soft drinks that have killed domestic companies. These foreign companies are also using up scarce water resources,'' alleged K Mohan, secretary of the Sangam.

Tamil Nadu is facing an unprecedented drought, Mohan is reported to have said, adding, the Indian soft drink brands were cheaper as also healthier. There are fresh juices that even doctors recommend, he was quoted as saying.

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