Tuesday, March 19, 2013

ETHICS DESK:  It's fairly universally acknowledged that Coca-Cola with cane sugar tastes better than the current U.S. formula, which uses high fructose corn syrup.  In the US, there are two ways to get your hands on "sugar Coke."  The first is through grey market imports from Mexico, where the product is still bottled with the original sugar formula.  At least in some neighborhoods, this is a fairly easy endeavor.  The other route is that Coke makes (in fairly limited quantities) Kosher for Passover Coke that contains sugar rather than corn syrup and is otherwise slightly adjusted to abide by the appropriate rules.

My local Gristedes stocks (in fairly substantial quantities) two liter bottles of the KFP Coke product.  So, three ethical questions:

1.  Is it ethical for me, a non-Jew, to purchase the KFP Coke product simply because I prefer the taste, though I would have no religious or ethical bar to drinking the regular coke with HFCS?

2.  Would it be ethical for someone (regardless of religion) to purchase the KFP Coke in bulk and then resell later in the year at a markup to people who prefer the taste?

3.  Is the ethical calculus in any way changed if I were to take the last remaining bottle of the product, rather than one of many available bottles?


  1. As a single guy in Manhattan, you aren't exposed to Costco and Sam's. Both permanently stock MexiCoke now. I'd worry more about the economics of item 2 than the ethics.

    1. - No. Assume normal restocking will replenish whatever you buy.

    3. - Someone will always buy the last bottle, might as well be you. The shelf will be empty in three minutes anyway.

  2. I wouldn't have a problem with any of 1-3, but then I've never known any Jews who couldn't drink anything but Coke or been exposed to any Passover observances that called for that beverage specifically. Maybe I'm being ignorant and insensitive. #2 sounds a little far-fetched, but if it happened with sufficient frequency to be a problem for the observant community it would be a strong signal to the company to offer a sugar recipe option year-round. On that level I'd be quite happy (for the incentive on the company, not the hardship to the observant consumer).

  3. Marsha9:54 PM

    I strictly observe Passover. Trust me, go ahead and buy as much as you want.

    I have never, ever, ever seen a grocery store run out of the K-for-P Coke before the holiday. Any kosher-keeping Jew who waits this long to procure any in-demand item knows he or she is taking a risk. And all Jews know that cane-sugar-loving people of all faiths hoard the stuff. If it makes you feel better, wait until the night before Passover and then buy it, but there's really no reason.

  4. yes, yes, no (it's just a drink). Though two is an asshole move and probably stupid. Every convenience store near me has it, last time I was in Wal-mart they had Mexican Coke and Sprite, 2 of the 3 Publix grocery stores I hit carry it. At least in my part of the world, sugar coke is easy to find.

    I could never tell the difference between KFP coke and HFCS coke. Bottled in Mexico coke definitely tastes different and better. Is this just me?

  5. Yes, yes (though probably a poor investment), no. If you get consumer surplus from a purchase, make it. If Gristede's sells out, they'll order more. If they order more, Coke will make more. If the price goes up bc of shortage, the people who want it most are more likely to get it,

  6. I would encourage you to buy up the whole shelf if it's for your personal consumption, and stop drinking the HFCS version altogether. If more people did that,it would send a message to Coke that its consumers Enjoy the Real Thing.

  7. Related rant from one of my librarian colleagues: She's a vegetarian and always faithfully marks herself as such for the lunch option on registration for conferences that include a meal or meals. But at a lot of conferences, when lunch rolls around, it's self-serve. And on more than one occasion, they've been out of the vegetarian box lunch/sandwich before she got through the line. So, the assumption is, either vegetarians are crap at marking their registration forms OR a lot of non-vegetarians grab the vegetarian option either without thinking or because it looks good/better than the meat options.

    I'm a carnivore to my very soul, so the meat option is pretty much always going to look better to me and I wouldn't grab the vegetarian one anyway. But what if I wanted to? Is that a similar dilemma to Matt's K-for-P question?

  8. I so rarely get to say this, so: "I agree entirely with Ted Frank regarding this issue of economics, ethics, and public policy." Seriously: There are services and products the sale and purchase of which presents moral issues. This ain't one of them.

  9. Only slightly related: If you are someone who enjoys Egg Matzoh, sees that your store now stocks yolk-free Egg Matzoh, and thinks, "Hmmm. I wonder whether the yolk is what made it so good?" The answer, unsurprisingly, is "yes."

  10. By the way, Matt: Isn't " It's fairly universally acknowledged that Coca-Cola with cane sugar tastes better than the current U.S. formula, which uses high fructose corn syrup." the opening line to Pride and Prejudice?

  11. No, it's from "Pepsi and Prejudice." (Or is "Pride and Pepsi" the better joke?)

  12. Watts2:22 PM

    Pride and Pepsi. Don't put the punchline at the front.

    (And, nice one.)

  13. Watts3:38 PM

    It's similar in the sense, though, that Person B just wants the thing, while Person A needs it, per their religious/moral/ethical code.

  14. It's not the same, because the vegetarian meals are specifically requested by the attendees ahead of time and are probably produced in only the amount requested.

  15. Marsha5:48 PM

    Precisely. And at a conference, she really has no other food option. I can always go to another store to get my K-for_P Coke. Or (gasp!) live without it!

  16. Jordan11:00 PM

    FWIW this was just a plot point on Psych tonight, but it was Mexican Coke, for the same reasons.

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  18. Johanna Lapp1:56 PM

    Starting around mid-February, the bottlers produce nothing but KfP Coke for the New York market. The machines need to be flushed, thoroughly cleaned of any trace of leavened grain products, and inspected by the rabbis. It's cheaper to use the slightly pricier cane sugar for the whole season's run than to segregate lines to produce two different products.

    If your store has both on the shelves, it's a changeover overlap.

    I heard of a boycott once where customers objected to rabbi-approved product, so some stores might pander by not selling the yellow-cap bottles. Which is stupid, since the corn syrup version is certified everyday Kosher.

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