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bottled drinks prices in Beijing

“Why are there fewer and fewer drinks below 5 RMB?”: Trending hashtag on Chinese social media

Based on recent field research conducted by Economic View (中新经纬) at supermarkets and convenience stores in Beijing, bottled drinks are overall getting more expensive. Most of which costing over 5 RMB except for bottled water, and even more so any type of bottled drinks under the price of 3 RMB are rare to find on the shelf. This trend has sparked widespread discussions on Chinese social media under the hashtag #Why are there fewer and fewer drinks below 5 RMB# (5元以下饮料为什么越来越少), generating over 87 million views within a week.

Bottled drink prices rise amidst raw material scarcity

Several factors contribute to the rising prices of bottled drinks in recent years. For instance, one of the major carbonated drink companies, Coca-Cola, has been facing a shortage of a key ingredient used in its products, Arabic gum (阿拉伯胶), due to its heavy reliance on Sudan for imports. The scarcity has led to a slight increase in prices. As a result, a 500 ml bottle of Coke cost around 3.6 RMB in large retail stores like Wumart (物美超市) and Yonghui Supermarket (永辉超市). Moreover, it was sold at approximately 3.8 RMB in some community grocery stores in Beijing. Furthermore, alongside the supply shortages of raw materials, there have been rising costs in logistics, labor, and packaging materials, particularly PET and PTA, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Netizens speak up on the rising cost of drinks

“In fact, 3 RMB 20 years ago was much more expensive than it is now.” A netizen from Zhejiang commented on this matter. “Nowadays, everyone likes sugar-free and zero-calorie drinks. If the brand cannot achieve this, consumers pretty much would not buy it. Plus, the ingredient erythritol is very expensive, so a price increase is normal.” Another netizen from Shandong said. 

Bottled drink prices soar: key factor and consumer trends

  • Bottled drinks in Beijing, China, are becoming more expensive, with most of them costing over 5 RMB, except for bottled water. Drinks priced below 3 RMB have become rare to find on shelves.
  • Several factors contribute to the rising prices, including shortages of key ingredients like Arabic gum, impacting major companies like Coca-Cola. Additionally, logistics, labor, and packaging material costs have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Consumers’ changing preferences, favoring sugar-free and zero-calorie drinks with expensive ingredients like erythritol. This caused a price hike on bottled drinks. As such, the trend has sparked discussions on Chinese social media.

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