Is it the real thing?

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 13th July 2010.

A major improvement has been made to the world’s biggest selling soft drink. That’s right, Coca-Cola have added grip to their 450ml PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. In what should receive the award for most dubious product improvement of the year, the manufacturers of Coke are labelling the new container “easy to hold”. That’s strange. I haven’t heard of anyone having problems holding a bottle of Coke. Do they realise that the container is made of plastic and won’t shatter when you drop it anyway? Perhaps they should be adding grip to their glass bottles? To be fair, Coke are claiming that the new bottle design uses 5% less PET than the previous one. OK, this may be an environmentally sound improvement I guess, but I don’t suppose that this new bottle will come with a small price reduction either. Despite its domination and success worldwide, the history of Coca-Cola is littered with several controversies and odd marketing decisions, much like the new grippy bottle. Created in 1886 by John Pemberton, a pharmacist in Columbus, Georgia, Coca-Cola had a rough start with a little legal turmoil after the creator sold his formula twice, the second sale to fund his morphine addiction. Initially containing cocaine (this was ceased in 1904), Coke is now manufactured with coca leaves from which cocaine has already been extracted (for medicinal purposes only of course). In 1985, New Coke was unleashed upon the US and Canada. With a new sweeter formula, it was developed to improve Coca-Cola’s market share in the US, where a fierce battle was being fought against Pepsi. Despite market research which showed that the majority of taste testers preferred the new formula, Coke did not anticipate the backlash it would receive, especially from the company’s home of Atlanta, Georgia, buoyed by nostalgia for what was considered an American icon. Less than twelve weeks later, in a complete back-flip, Coca-Cola Classic was back on the shelves, alongside New Coke, now known as Coca-Cola 2. By 2002, New Coke, as a separate product, was no more. Conspiracy theorists believe that the New Coke controversy was manufactured to allow Classic Coke to be brought back in the US with the cheaper (and much more fattening) high fructose corn syrup, rather than cane sugar, as its principal ingredient. Call in Fox Mulder. Not all of Coco-Cola’s ideas have involved Coke itself. Tab was a diet cola that was developed by Coca-Cola in 1963. The emergence of Diet Coke in 1982 saw Tab sales decline and it disappeared in Australia sometime in the late nineties. In 1993, Tab Clear was released in Australia. Clear cola, a fad around that time with several different brands, failed as a marketing gimmick and less than a year later had disappeared from shelves. Perhaps they forgot that the colour of the beverage itself was somewhat irrelevant considering Tab was mostly sold in cans. In 2008, Australian actress Kerry Armstrong was hired to front an advertising campaign “mythbusting” the notion that Coke was bad for you. I would suggest that an actress who makes a living saying someone else’s lines would not be the person Australians go to for nutritional advice. A year later, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ruled that the ads were misleading. Despite these hiccups, Coca-Cola remains a dominant brand in the Australian beverage marketplace, expanding their portfolio to include beer, water, fruit juice, coffee and sports drinks. So if you go for “the real thing”, “just for the taste of it”, to “add life”, I also suggest you also “get a grip”.

Published in: on July 18, 2010 at 11:20  Leave a Comment  
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