Shopkeepers in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu have started removing Coca Cola and Pepsi from their shelves after unions called for a boycott of the soft drink giants. More than a million outlets could be affected in one of India’s most prosperous states, with nearly 70 million people.
Trade unions in Tamil Nadu said on Wednesday they targeted the US companies in a broad swipe at foreign businesses. Tempers flared last year after authorities banned the traditional bull-wrestling festival Jallikattu after US-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) successfully challenged the practice in court. The court decision sparked a huge backlash.
Though no one says the cola giants had anything to do with the ban, many people grumbled over foreign meddling.
Pepsi and Coke have already been blamed for taking groundwater used by farmers, who have been suffering a drought for two years. The NGO India Resource Center estimates that, taking account for the vast amount of water used in growing the sugar, 400 liters of water are required to manufacture one bottle of cola.
The handful of bottling plants run by the two companies in Tamil Nadu have been the sites of angry protests, with permission to build at least three new facilities withdrawn amid violent rallies by farmers.
The boycotts may only be the beginning of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s woes as they try to expand in India. There is talk that the Indian government may introduce a “sin tax” against sugary drinks, which could further reduce growth figures.