The New Coke
At the end of World War II, Coca Cola had a proud market share of 60%. However due to tough competition, mainly from Pepsi Cola, the market share declined to only 24% at the beginning of the 80s. A study called “Project Kansas” was started and the test people were asked for their opinion. Finally, the result was that the taste of the soft drink did not attract its customers anymore.
The soft drink of the competitor was sweeter and this seemed to fit better into a world where since 1982 Diet Coke had been launched. So customers would have the choice between a Coke with no calories and one that was sweet. The survey also showed that most of the test people were easy to change to a newer, sweeter coke. Only a minority of 10-12% considered to not buy Coca Cola anymore, if the taste changed.
It was also discussed if it wouldn’t be better just to start a new Coke next to the traditional one but this idea was dismissed. Earlier changes to the recipe of the company’s subsidiary, Bahamian, had proven that changing the taste can increase profits. So the decision was “New Coke or no Coke”.
However, Coke’s rival Pepsi sensed the weakness of the change. Once The Coca Cola Company announced to change to a new recipe of its soft drink, Pepsi announced that it has won the “Cola War”. Pepsi focused on an important quality attribute that people connected with a coke. The taste of Coca Cola was seen as the original, the real taste, and Pepsi only as a copy. So, Pepsi Cola announced that by the decision of Coca Cola, “Coke has admitted that it’s not the real thing.” Pepsi even gave its employees a day off as they declared that the Cola War was won.
The New Coke was introduced to the market on April 23, 1985. The company’s headquarters received a storm of negative feedback from its customers. More than 400,000 calls and letters were received. Even Fidel Castro, who claimed to be a long time consumer of the original Coca Cola, called the New Coke a sign of American capitalistic decadence. The CEO of The Coca Cola Company, Robert Goizatta, was even criticized by his father for changing the original recipe. An organization was also founded which was named Old Cola Drinkers of America. Even a class action lawsuit was filed against the company, demanding either to bring back the original Coke or to give the recipe to someone else. Some of the American customers even tried to import Coca Cola from outside the USA as the New Coke was only introduced domestically.
On July 11 the executive of Coca Cola had had enough and announced to go back to the original recipe. This news was seen as so important that even TV shows were interrupted to break the news. It is said that US senator David Pryor called it, “A meaningful moment in US history.” as the change to the original Coke was announced. Even as Coca Cola announced to go back to the original recipe some people didn’t believe it. This could however really be true because the Coca Cola Classic, which was the name for the original Coke, used fructose corn syrup and not sugar cane syrup. This however was not the case in all states before the Coca-Cola Classic was introduced.