The Glass Shortage Depriving Me of Topo Chico

I stopped drinking alcohol for the most part about five years ago and also dropped high sugar soft drinks about a year ago and Topo Chico (a relatively recent Coca-Cola acquisition that has been sourced and bottled in Monterrey, Mexico for over 120 years) fills the gap for me as a mixer in mocktails and as my go-to when I want something fizzy.

Topo Chico is a great comfort of mine. A case always sits on the floor of my office with a few resting in the refrigerator waiting for a squeeze of lime. I buy it by the case anywhere its available. “It’s just fizzy water?” you might ask. Well, sure. It’s that. But it’s the amount of fizz. An irresponsible level of fizziness. And the minerals! They’re minerally!

It’s just fizzy water BAH. It’s so much more. Anyway.

Ever since leaving Austin, TX, where the sparkling mineral water could be found as readily as drilling into the Edwards Aquifer, finding Topo Chico has been a bit of challenge.  This is shocking to me because of its natural appeal of being so fizzy it makes you think you might be spontaneously combusting when you take your first sip. Still, certain retailers in Los Angeles or my new home of Fayetteville, Arkansas always have it in theory but the supply is never quite abundant enough that it’s a no-brainer that I’ll be well-stocked for months.

topo chico my love
ilu topo chico

Then the glass shortage began…

While everyone in games is lamenting the parts shortages affecting the availability of the PlayStation 5 or the apparent delay of a more powerful Nintendo Switch, I’m over here researching the genesis of a raw materials shortage affecting beverage supply across the United States. So here’s what I know.

Bars and suppliers from Denver, CO to Fort Myers, FL have reported both raw materials and labor shortages in bottle manufacturing centers like Arkansas and Mexico. Mexico has a high rate of glass bottle reuse, meaning consumers can return their glass bottles of Topo Chico or Coca-Cola in exchange for cash. Those bottles are then cleaned and refilled — crucially, not recycled — and then put back into the rotation and the cycle continues. The refill rate has drastically declined, however, from its days in the 1990s at 77%. Labor shortages combined with raw material delays from manufacturers around the world due to Covid-19 have mixed with a decreasing refill rate, thus creating an American shortage of my favorite fizzy water.

Those raw material delays could be connected to tariffs the United States has placed on China, which remains the world’s largest exporter of glass and glassware. It’s unclear, however, if the shortage of raw glass from China is directly impacting Topo Chico since it’s tough to track down how new glass bottles are made in Mexico. Mexico imports 2.1% of the world’s glass, while the United States leads the world with nearly 12%.

Topo Chico is also sold in plastic bottles and is readily available, in my experience. Do you know why? Because it takes on the flavor of the plastic bottle and tastes like shit. That’s why. So this glass bottle shortage is really cramping my style. No one from the hospitality industry local news outlets talked to about the shortage seemed to know when it would end. Topo Chico recently tweeted about the shortage without directly addressing the causes of it, noting that you can buy 12-packs of their tiny 6.5 fl oz bottles directly from the website. It seems that only standard 12 fl oz bottles are subject to the troubles.

I spent most of last weekend and will spend most of this weekend going from liquor store to liquor store, market to market, searching for any 4-pack, any loose bottle in a checkout fridge, any crumb of information I can get as to why this is happening and when it will end. I just want this pathetic, flat nightmare to end.

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John Warren

I miss Texas sometimes. Wheelchair person. Professional wrestling is humanity's greatest achievement. He/his, y'all.

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