Why was Coca Cola banned in India

Boycott of Coca-Cola and Pepsi in India: juice instead of lemonade

In the state of Tamil Nadu, Indians are boycotting Coca-Cola and Pepsi for local patriotic reasons. Now the retail sector is also taking part.

Present even in the smallest village kiosk: Pepsi advertising in northern India Photo: dpa

BERLINtaz | In the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, two large retail associations no longer sell Coca-Cola and Pepsi beverages. The associations justify the step with the fact that the corporations take the water for the drinks from the groundwater and this exacerbates the water shortage during droughts. In addition, the drinks are unhealthy.

About one million retailers belong to the associations, according to the Association of Beverage Manufacturers, the sales boycott in the state with 78 million inhabitants could cost the corporations up to 14 billion rupees (about 200 million euros).

The sales ban triggered a protest movement that had existed for a long time in Tamil Nadu, which was sparked by the ban on the local bull spectacle "Jallikattu", in which participants had to grab a bull by the horns and hold onto it. The Supreme Court of India banned the tradition in 2014 for cruelty to animals. Three years later, in January of this year, a large movement against the ban began. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered every day until the end of January when the Tamil Nadu government legalized the tradition again.

However, the protests quickly went beyond simply calling for Jallikattu to be legalized. In the meantime a local patriotic movement has emerged that feels oppressed by the non-Tamil north of India and wants to promote and strengthen local products. "We had started the campaign earlier, but with the Jallikattu protests it gained momentum," said Tha Vellaiyan, head of one of the retail associations, the BBC. "We promote Indian drinks and want to support the sale of juices." The environmental aspect is a welcome side effect.

A boycott of Coca-Cola and Pepsi lemonades had already begun among consumers during the protests in January. According to Indian media reports, supermarket owners have stopped re-ordering the drinks in the past few weeks because demand had fallen sharply. Retailers who previously sold up to 60 bottles were only selling in single-digit numbers, it said, and in many places the remaining stocks had been sold for a third of the price printed on them.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi dominate the beverage market in India with a combined approximately 80 percent of the market share and a turnover of around 2 billion euros. The corporations have not yet commented on the boycott movement.