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Not so sweet

By Jullie Y. Daza

A MONTH after training ourselves to catch the TRAIN with the least injury to our pocketbooks, one of the biggest producers of “sweetened drinks” has suffered a dip in sales of R11 billion, in 30 days. If industry sources are to be believed, another producer of sugary beverages, also called fruit juices, was hit by a 60 percent decline in business, from both retail and industrial customers, such as restaurants, within a period of 30 days.

So much less sugar being drunk, which should be good news to doctors treating diabetics as well as dentists concerned with saving teeth, but how much in sales taxes has the government lost? Flip the coin and we consumers have to wonder if the manufacturers of sweetened drinks, carbonated as well as noncarbonated, will be compensated for their losses by paying lower taxes. Earn less, pay less in taxes – is that how it works in the corporate world?

It’s too soon to predict if the losses suffered by the manufacturers on one side and the national government on the other will mount as the days go by, or remain flat; what is interesting to find out is whether consumers will break their habit and craving for sweetened drinks for good, and what type of products they will shift their loyalty to, if at all. As consumers, we react to any change in pricing, yelling at the top of our lungs, but once we’re “used to it,” as the saying goes, we’re hooked again.

Remember how we used to protest at every hike in gasoline prices? Well, the oil companies have so conditioned us to their strategies – 60 centavos higher, 25 centavos lower – but what else can we do? It’s not as if we could terrorize them by boycotting their products. (The most recent schedule of price hikes last week was announced the same day a Voice of America report said “oil prices were tumbling” in the US.)

The reality is that we learn to live with higher prices – part of the inflation bugaboo that eats up profits and salaries. My best friend used to explain inflation with her own experience. For years she pinched pennies so she could buy her own car. By the time she had met her goal, the prices of cars had gone way beyond the pesos and centavos in her bank account, so she was forced to take out a loan from the bank, which by necessity had to factor in the inflation rate.