Pattaya Daily News

03 July 2010 :: 18:07:26 pm 28613

American Liquid Gold: 1985 Crisis

Rumor has it that in April 1985, executives were summoned to an emergency meeting at the corporate headquarters. In front of them were placed six small cans that had been smuggled from their main competitors manufacturing plant.
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The fluid was portioned out into sampling containers and passed around to each and every one of them.   The secret compound represented their rivals’ successful ‘Merchandise X’ that was due for release any day soon with millions of dollars at stake. Each man looked the liquid over and over, slowly sampling it orally, allowing their taste buds full access to the new substance.  There were mixed feelings and impressions that was to represent a new and serious threat to their own company.

The infamous reformulation of Coca-Cola began around ten years earlier when in 1975, Pepsi’s marketing department began putting up Pepsi Challenge booths in shopping malls all over the US with passerby’s being offered two shrouded cans of cola and asked to sample each of them indicating their preference.  Different regions hosted varied points of view with Pepsi coming overall top by 12 per cent.  Coca-Cola considered these tests as unscientific, but when they held their own tasting, they came to the same results.

Due to the success of the Pepsi challenge, Coca-Cola’s empire dwindled in the soft drink industry. By 1983, Coca-Cola had lost millions in marketing.  Although their annual spending topped Pepsis’ by $100 million, Coca-Colas’ market share fell from 60 per cent to 22 per cent and they abandoned its century old $5.5 billion per year recipe. Around 1984/85, Coca-Cola chemists were ordered to reconfigure Pepsis’ ‘Merchandise X’ and abandoned sugar in place of  fructose corn syrup which is an unnatural alternative that gave the mutant cokes a longer shelf life and also reduced the cost of production as corn products were far cheaper than imported sugar.

Once new formulas were delivered, a series of experiments were undertaken with some preferring the sweeter taste, but overall, it was 8 per cent more favored than Pepsi and 20 per cent more favored than Coca-Colas original recipe. Some participants in the tasting who preferred the new flavor were hostile to the idea of changing the recipe, but after $4 million spent in research the new formula was to be unleashed on 23rd April 1985, but Pepsi officials were already informed of their plans.

The following day, as the Coca-Cola officials sat before a large group of reporters along with the redesigned coke cans and announced that the ‘Real Thing’ was now even realer, they were unaware that the rival Pepsi had already tipped off some of the media which equipped them with a whole lot of questions. Other reporters had already read the New York Times where a full page ad declared Pepsi the victorious in the cola wars. Coca-Cola was surprised by the barrage of antagonistic questions which left officials flustered. As predicted, the Coca-Cola sales improved by 8 per cent in the first few weeks of promotion with surveys revealing that 70 per cent being happy with the new coke.

It was announced on TV that coke actually tasted better than ever before, but within weeks, approximately 11 per cent of the public complained about the new taste and their dislike for it. Customers wrote and called the company with a barrage of complaints and insults which were so bad that the company brought in a psychologist to listen to the complaints and give his views as to why the animosity was so bad. Even the Cuban President Fidel Castro complained of the revision of his favorite drink and the founder of the old cola drinkers of America tried to take out a law suit to force Coca-Cola into restoring the original recipe. The Federal Judge rejected the case saying he preferred Pepsi.

On 11th July 1985 79 days later, a news bulletin announced that the original recipe Coke had been reinstated back onto supermarket shelves as Coca-Cola Classic and virtually every news paper carried the news on their front page.

Sarah Goldman

Photo : Internet   Category : Stories

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