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Today 1889 Coke-A-Cola, then known by the less tasty sounding name of Pemberton Medicine Company, became incorporated. In honor of that, lets take a look back at one of Coke’s biggest blunders (kind of.)
Throughout most of the 20th century Coke the massive majority of the soda market. But in the early 80s that began to change. Pepsi began to become more popular and diet colas were starting to take away a sizable portion of Coke’s market share. Coke’s market research told them that as baby boomers aged they would begin giving up regular colas in favor of diet versions. Coke’s think tank reasoned that the only room for market growth would be among youth, and they were favoring Pepsi because it was sweeter and saw Coke as their grandparent’s drink. Pepsi’s “taste of a new generation” played right into that thought.
At one point Pepsi became the number one soft drink in America, doing what was once thought impossible: outselling Coke. The truth is that Coke combined with Diet Coke was still outselling Pepsi (Diet Pepsi was not introduced yet), but did little to calm the fear at Coke’s headquarters.
Coke developed a sweeter version of it’s formula and introduced it to the public on April 23, 1985, that same week the company ceased production of it’s original flavor. Of course, it is well known that there was a public backlash. What is not too well known though is that the product actually sold well. The first month sales were up 8% over the previous year.
Despite decent sales, many people just simply didn’t like the change. Much like the cancellation of Twinkees last year, people were upset not because it was a great product but because of the nostalgia of it. Coke received many letters and ridicule from journalists. Finally on July 10th of the same year Coke announced they were going to reintroduce the original formula as Coke-A-Cola Classic. The news was so big that news reporter Peter Jennings interrupted General Hospital to announce it live.
The new Coke continued to sell as Coke-A-Cola until 1992 when it was renamed Coke II and then eventually disappeared into the soda graveyard. to later be joined by Crsytal Pepsi, Vanilla Coke, Surge Cola, Pepsi Blue and many other failed Colas.
Some people thought when the original flavor didn’t taste quite right when it returned. They were right, factories that hadn’t already done so took this opportunity to switch to High Fructose Corn Syrup. Because of this, Coke technically sold in America is still not the original formula. Although, if you find yourself a bottle of Coke from Mexico you can still experience the original taste.
By the end of 1985 Classic Coke was outselling both the new Coke and Pepsi. Coke sale’s would increase twice that of Pepsi.
So was new Coke really a blunder?