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Catch the Wave
April 1, 2010 5:43 PM   Subscribe

25 years ago this month, with a move similar to the recent Tonight Show switchfail - Coca Cola introduced a new version of their signature product. "New Coke" wasn't exactly what people were looking for, but it all worked out OK when the blunder gave birth to "Classic" Coke, which went away quietly last year.
posted by davebush (112 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I remember when this happened, and the big fuss it created. 25 years ago? Now I feel old.
posted by FishBike at 5:46 PM on April 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


I still think new coke was better than classic
posted by spicynuts at 5:46 PM on April 1, 2010


New Coke died before I got a chance to try it. I wish the retro pop kick that brought about the real sugar versions would also bring back failures. New Coke! Crystal Pepsi!

They would sell way better than they should.
posted by graventy at 5:47 PM on April 1, 2010


Yeah, I'm still holding out for the return of Crystal Clear Pepsi! I am not holding out for the return of Miller Clear though.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:51 PM on April 1, 2010


Are the real sugar versions of things limited-time things, or something? I used to buy out the Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback when the local Safeway had them, but they don't have them anymore. They've got Dr Pepper Heritage still, but I fear that that'll disappear too.
posted by kafziel at 5:52 PM on April 1, 2010


Please do not stop buying Coke. Thank you.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:53 PM on April 1, 2010


Hey, do you guys remember Pepsi Blue?
posted by Freon at 5:55 PM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Kafziel, you can find real sugar versions of Coca Cola from South America in various places. A bunch of local market/specialty convenience stores in my area carry them and so do the South American markets. I've also seen it in the international aisle of Kroger. I've never seen it myself since I've never looked for it, but some places carry Coca Cola with real sugar in 2 liters for Passover since HFCS isn't kosher.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:56 PM on April 1, 2010


Any volunteers for snapping up some unopened New Coke cans and giving us a taste test?
posted by crapmatic at 5:56 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


John Scully, who took over Apple from Steve Jobs, naturally wrote a book about his business experiences. He had come from PepsiCo and described this episode from their perspective. Interestingly, he claims that Pepsi was on the verge of releasing a soda designed to replicate the taste of (old) Coke when Coke Classic was announced. His rationale, as I recall, was something like "If Coke isn't going to sell the post popular cola on the planet then we will."
posted by LastOfHisKind at 5:56 PM on April 1, 2010


I was so Coked up in 1985, I don't remember a thing.
posted by box at 5:58 PM on April 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Any volunteers for snapping up some unopened New Coke cans and giving us a taste test?

I'm amazed that 25 year old cans still have any liquid in them. Usually after a year or so, you end up with little pinholes in the bottom from where the acid eats through the aluminum, resulting in empty cans sitting on a dried puddle of cola. Maybe the cans were better made back in the day?
posted by FishBike at 6:01 PM on April 1, 2010


I remember when they brought back Coke Classic. I remember being very happy when I got my first one, so glad things could go back to the way they were. Then I remember taking that first drink and realizing it tasted different somehow. I told my parents this, and they said I was crazy, it was exactly the same thing.

It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I learned that that was when they switched from cane sugar to high fructose corn syrup. I had been right all along.

Suck it, parents.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:02 PM on April 1, 2010 [26 favorites]


New Coke died before I got a chance to try it. I wish the retro pop kick that brought about the real sugar versions would also bring back failures. New Coke! Crystal Pepsi!

7-Up Gold?
posted by 40 Watt at 6:04 PM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm still partial to Pepsi AM
posted by leotrotsky at 6:12 PM on April 1, 2010


One of the awesome benefits of living in Asia is that you get to try out all sorts of bizarre new drinks that they try out on the markets here. Every season brings new and exciting combinations to astound and amaze.
posted by nightchrome at 6:12 PM on April 1, 2010


Man, I couldn't possibly say anything new about the New Coke fiasco, so I'll just mention this: on Negativland's album "Dispepsi", the theme of which is advertising and specifically cola advertising, there's a track which consists entirely of a call to a radio show where the caller asserts that Coke changed the formula for "human rights reasons". When asked what he could possibly mean, he goes on to say that the police in Mexico supposedly torture suspects by spraying Coca-Cola in their eyes or something like that, so they made the formula less acidic to thwart the Mexican police's sadism. Sadly, the track ends before we hear the host's reply.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:12 PM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I'm still holding out for the return of Crystal Clear Pepsi!

One of my favorite Saturday Night Live commercial parodies from the 90s era was "Crystal Gravy", which is exactly what you're imagining, with a soundalike of Van Halen's "Right Now" playing and everything.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:15 PM on April 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


There was the "Take the Pepsi challenge" ad campaign, a long-running series of Pepsi commercials where people were given both colas in a blind taste tests and Pepsi always won, probably because it is sweeter.

But Coke continued to outsell Pepsi anyway, which must have driven Pepsi executives crazy. "But you LIKE. US. BETTER!" they shouted, to little avail, as their market share remained the same. Call it habit, brand loyalty, or maybe Coca-cola or Coke was just a better-sounding name then Pepsi. Say Pepsi a few times. Sounds a little wimpy or silly, you could argue.

Then Coca-cola executives just panicked, I guess, or over-thought the selling of fizzy sweetened water to the point that they came out with what immediately seemed to be an insanely bad idea. Maybe they thought "We will still be Coke but we will taste better to people and it will be a glorious triumph! And we will Rule forever and be invincible!

Who knows, maybe the other kind of "coke" was involved in the decision-making process, they could certainly afford it.
posted by longsleeves at 6:18 PM on April 1, 2010


Pepsi always won, probably because it is sweeter

Interesting - I've always considered Coke sweeter.
posted by davebush at 6:20 PM on April 1, 2010


At the time, as a teenager, I thought this was a marketing ploy by Coke to create a huge buzz and public outcry to save "classic" Coke, which was "reintroduced"...

Publicity no one could buy and is still being talked about 25 years later.

I still think it may have been a ploy.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 6:21 PM on April 1, 2010


Dave Barry said it best:

"And so the folks at Coca-Cola suddenly woke up and realized that hey, these are the eighties, and they got off their butts and improved Coke by letting it sit out in vats in the hot sun and adding six or eight thousand tons of sugar, the exact amount being a trade secret."
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 6:22 PM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Coke Classic is gone? Huh.
posted by DU at 6:26 PM on April 1, 2010


One of my favorite Saturday Night Live commercial parodies from the 90s era was "Crystal Gravy", which is exactly what you're imagining, with a soundalike of Van Halen's "Right Now" playing and everything.

Oh yes, that is one of my favorites too! Kind of makes you gag a little but it's hilarious. Here it is. For some reason, it also brings to mind Cookie Dough Sport. I remember when I was young, I spent the night at a friend's house and in the morning we had pancakes for breakfast. Her family used that clear Karo syrup stuff and the look and the thought of it freaked me out. It looks exactly like crystal gravy.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:27 PM on April 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought "New Coke" tasted like flat Pepsi. I was relieved when "Classic" was available.

I live in Arizona, we're very lucky to have many Mexican grocers and other similar places that I can buy my Coke with REAL CANE SUGAR instead of HFCS. I think HFCS is bleh tasting. I can taste other sweeteners as flavors, also, so any diet soft drink is pure nastiness (um, hurray for hurray for hyperactive senses but, no, not really because it's a trial.)
posted by _paegan_ at 6:29 PM on April 1, 2010


Besides cane sugar, another great thing about Mexican Coke is the 12 ounce glass bottles.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 6:30 PM on April 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pepsi Throwback is better than Mexican Coke.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:40 PM on April 1, 2010


I still think it may have been a ploy.

Many believe this, but I don't. Just apply Occam's razor: the possibilities are A. it was the most brilliant marketing stunt ever AND no one has since come forth and admitted that yeah, it was all a stunt, even this many years later or B. it was a simple dumb fuck-up to try to compete with Pepsi, exactly like they say it was. I say B is much more likely.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:40 PM on April 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


Some people I know have seriously posited that New Coke was never really intended to be a replacement flavor, but rather, that it was a way to cover up the transition from sugar to HFCS. After a few months of New Coke, the public was supposed to forget how coke was supposed to taste.

All I really have to say about this theory is that it demonstrates a great deal of faith in the abilities of our corporations.
posted by baf at 6:42 PM on April 1, 2010


Oh yeah, I remember getting glass bottled coke in Mexico. Another cool thing was that they recycled the bottles by washing and refilling them a number of times before melting them down again. You could tell how many times they'd done this by checking how ground down the widest parts of the bottle were from rolling through the machines.
posted by DU at 6:43 PM on April 1, 2010


Yeah, love the Mexican coke. I usually pick some of that up and some Jarritos if I happen to be at the right grocery store for it. Grapefruit Jarritos is surprisingly good.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:43 PM on April 1, 2010


I like the Tamarind Jarritos.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 6:44 PM on April 1, 2010


It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I learned that that was when they switched from cane sugar to high fructose corn syrup. I had been right all along.

I read somewhere and can't find now that there is fair speculation that this was part of the whole New Coke thing all along, that the intent was never to get rid of Classic forever, but to take it away long enough to reintroduce with HFCS instead of cane sugar and hope people wouldn't notice the difference.

(Don't think they planned on New Coke tanking so completely, IIRC the hope was to end up with two versions of Coke on the market, Classic w/HFCS and closer-to-Pepsi New Coke.)
posted by LooseFilter at 6:45 PM on April 1, 2010


I tried some of that Pepsi Throwback, and I didn't care for it. Then again, I just don't like Pepsi.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 6:46 PM on April 1, 2010


Isn't Diet Coke the New Coke flavor with artificial sweeteners? Being too young to know better I have always assumed this was the case. Perhaps I am applying too much logic to my interpretation of their packaging.
posted by polyhedron at 6:47 PM on April 1, 2010


DecemberBoy: You may well be right. But we're talking about the marketing people for Coca-Cola. I don't claim that I'm 100% certain of it. It just seemed so gob-smackingly stupid and paper-thin at the time. And it was HUGELY visible back then, way before the internets.

In another 10-15 years someone in their declining years will dish on it if my theory was right.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 6:47 PM on April 1, 2010


wikipedia says Diet Coke is a similar recipe to New Coke, and Coke Zero is the diet equivalent to Classic.

I can stomach Coke Zero if there's nothing else, but Diet Coke is a vile, evil drink.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:50 PM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Aussie Coke is plain old sugar cane Coke. I tried some American Coke from an imported lolly shop and it tasted a lot like medicine made from an old battery and somebody tried to mask the taste with NutraSweet. I've found that with a lot of the, what is it, corn syrup sodas?
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:57 PM on April 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Diet Coke is addictive. It may have something to do with its relatively high caffiene content (second only to Mountain Dew when compared to commonly available sodas). I love the stuff. It is way better than Coca-Cola or Pepsi in my opinion. Crisp and refreshing. I am a HFCS-hater however I still prefer Diet Coke to Coke Zero.

I checked Wikipedia after posting my comment, and while it corroborates my thesis it also suggests that Coca-Cola Light is the same as Diet Coke. When I visited Mexico and sampled a Coca-Cola Light the product was clearly Classic Coke flavor (aka Coke Zero). Thus I question the veracity of Wikipedia's claims on this issue.
posted by polyhedron at 6:57 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the best analysis of Coke vs. Pepsi, watch this.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:57 PM on April 1, 2010


Then again, I just don't like Pepsi.

There's something wrong with you, Pepsi is clearly the superior beverage.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:58 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pepsi has a weird fake cinnamon taste to me. But they both taste like a chemical brew when you think about it.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:01 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pepsi Throwback is better than Mexican Coke.

You must be over-medicated. I've bought multiple cases of the throwback Mountain Dew, made with real sugar cane thank you very much, but I only tested one 16oz. bottle of the Pepsi stuff and it tasted horrible, like it's missing something.

One thin people underestimate about Americans and our reluctance to change are the feelings of empowerment and control that we exercise over some of the most mundane things, some of which we'd rather see go out of business rather than change. We're fucking weird like that. I stopped drinking Rolling Rock on principle, not to mention not even considering Rolling Rock Red. Ugh.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:01 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, love the Mexican coke.

Brand Name Capitalization: the best line of defense against self-incrimination.
posted by griphus at 7:04 PM on April 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


I stopped drinking Rolling Rock on principle, not to mention not even considering Rolling Rock Red. Ugh.

You shouldn't drink it, not out of principle, but because it's unpalatable swill.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:09 PM on April 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


That shit -- New Coke -- was nasty! It gave me headaches.

I'd never imagined that a Coke would make me feel sick, but there it was.
posted by vhsiv at 7:12 PM on April 1, 2010


There was the "Take the Pepsi challenge" ad campaign, a long-running series of Pepsi commercials where people were given both colas in a blind taste tests and Pepsi always won, probably because it is sweeter.

Pepsi always won because it was sweeter and how the test was conducted. The Pepsi Challenge gave people two small cups to ask which they liked better. In small amounts, people will overwhelmingly choose the sweeter product. But we don't take a sip and then put the drink away, do we? No, we consume soda in 12 oz. cans, sometimes multiple sodas in a row.

Coke executives did their own market research into what people prefer, using the same flawed methodology of the Pepsi challenge, thus New Coke.
posted by geoff. at 7:14 PM on April 1, 2010


Coke BlāK, we hardly knew ye....
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:15 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember New Coke being exceptionally sweet. I also remember drinking it at Heritage USA, Jim Bakker's Christian theme park.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:17 PM on April 1, 2010


25 years ago this month

Damn young people, get off my MeFi. Always making me feel old. Grumblecoughscratch.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:21 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is the water quality in the parts of Mexico where they bottle that sweet, sweet Mexican Coke?

Seriously though, is it good water? Or is it nasty Texas quality?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:26 PM on April 1, 2010


You shouldn't drink it, not out of principle, but because it's unpalatable swill.

I started out drinking Schlitz in the '70s so I know what I'm doing and I've never been influenced by anyone who thinks there is in fact, some level of quality assessed to beverages in general. If it tastes good to you, or it's the best-tasting thing you can afford, then go ahead and drink it.

And if you don't want anyone to know that you're drinking Brubaker, Knickerbocker, Scwakies or Busch, then put it in a cup.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:29 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read a great quote today, maybe yesterday.

Jennifer Someone (Aniston?) on how to look good:

"Quit putting shit into your body."

Truth.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:29 PM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I've never understood the love for Mexican Coke. Both versions give me a stomachache. I'll snap up a bottle of Jarritos in a heartbeat, though.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:29 PM on April 1, 2010


TrialByMedia: "I can stomach Coke Zero if there's nothing else, but Diet Coke is a vile, evil drink."

I keep it around to drink when I feel like cutting down on my soda consumption.

It works, seriously, just put it in your house and whenever you want a soda...go for it! It's right there! Diet Coke, enjoy your soda!

Brr. It's evil but it works.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:29 PM on April 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Coke BlāK, we hardly knew ye....

Now that was some weird-ass shit.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:34 PM on April 1, 2010


I believe Coke in Canada is flavored with sucrose, rather than corn syrup. It's interesting how there is a different recipe for each country. Japanese Coke has a lighter taste, kind of like icing sugar (where Canadian Coke tastes like table sugar).

Neat post, and it takes me back to junior high school, when New Coke, Coke Classic and the Cola Wars were something important. Pepsi was this strange, alien drink. How dare they challenge Coca Cola?

Hopefully my sons will never develop a taste for that crap.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:38 PM on April 1, 2010


Speaking of novelty drinks, my parents purchased a sixer of Billy Beer sometime around 1978 that sat under a bunch of old clothes in our storage room for about 20 years.

I always wanted to crack one open to see what it tasted like, but my parents always said, "No, no, no, these are collector's items, we're saving them."

Come to think of it, that six pack of Billy Beer is still sitting in the same spot in the house more than 30 years later.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:45 PM on April 1, 2010


I remember reading something at the time about Coke selling all their vanilla farms in Madagascar when New Coke came out. I wonder if they had to buy them back afterwards?
posted by eye of newt at 7:45 PM on April 1, 2010


I'm continually amused at the post-mortem of this fiasco. The Emory University School of Business (very respected, in Atlanta, GA, within 20 miles of the Coke Corp HQ) is named after Roberto C. Goizueta, the Coke CEO who thought New Coke was a good idea. So Roberto spent tens of millions to have a top-ten biz-school named after him where the first case study in "how to screw up a brand" is, well, him. Brilliant!
posted by kjs3 at 7:48 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pay attention to the labels - not all bottlers of Mexican Coke use cane sugar. Some use a mix of HFCS and sugar.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:50 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read a great quote today, maybe yesterday.

Jennifer Someone (Aniston?) on how to look good:

"Quit putting shit into your body."

Truth.


Well, that and a personal trainer, a high end dermatologist, and some subtle plastic surgery.
posted by availablelight at 7:51 PM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


From the link:

New Coke has long since disappeared from shelves, making the “Classic” qualification unnecessary. The font size of the “Classic” has been shrinking in the last decade, and the company removed it from labels in Canada in 2007.

I just bought a 6 pack of Coke (up here in Canada), and while the can doesn't say Classic, the plastic wrapping does.


....whatever....
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 7:52 PM on April 1, 2010


Somewhat serendipitously, my SO was just telling me earlier today about how she had recently seen Coca-Cola's CEO (or former CEO, idk) speak about how despite all their market research, they forgot to ask the most important question: "Do you like New Coke better than regular Coke?"
posted by wierdo at 7:54 PM on April 1, 2010


OK, I should write that more clearly: She was at an event where Coke's CEO (or former CEO, I'm not sure) was speaking. After his speech, there was a Q&A period. Inevitably, he was asked about New Coke and he told the story about their market research failure in response to the question.
posted by wierdo at 7:55 PM on April 1, 2010


How long was the interregnum between the replacement of Coke with New Coke and then, finally, its reintroduction as Coca Cola Classic? Was it months or years?
I just remember that as being a pretty tough time to be alive, comparable perhaps to what our grandparents went through in the Depression. I switched to RC Cola.
posted by Flashman at 7:56 PM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the Jarritos Wiki link:

Jarritos was started by Don Francisco "El Güero" Hill in 1950.

Wouldn't his sobriquet translate to "The Honky"? i.e. isn't "Güero" a racist term for white people?
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:07 PM on April 1, 2010


I guess it's not that weird now that I think about it, given that you hear about old gangsters' nicknames like (totally making this up) Jimmy "The Mick" O'Grady or whatever.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:10 PM on April 1, 2010


middleclasstool: If this Snopes page is to be believed, you're imagining things. A quote:

The change in sweetener wasn't anything that diabolical. Corn syrup was cheaper than cane sugar; that's what it came down to. In 1980, five years before the introduction of New Coke, half the cane sugar in Coca-Cola had been replaced with high fructose corn syrup. By six months prior to New Coke's knocking the original Coca-Cola off the shelves, there was no cane sugar in American Coca-Cola. Whether they knew it or not, what consumers were drinking then was 100% sweetened by high fructose corn syrup.
posted by komara at 8:22 PM on April 1, 2010


Isn't Diet Coke the New Coke flavor with artificial sweeteners? Being too young to know better I have always assumed this was the case. Perhaps I am applying too much logic to my interpretation of their packaging.
Here's how this was explained to us in marketing class. This all could be lies our teacher told us:

Coca-Cola made 'Diet Coke' to fit in with the whole 'diet' craze of the 80's. During product tasting, people really liked the taste, but the artificial sweeter aftertaste was a deal breaker for the customers not interested in having a zero calorie soda. So, some genius puts sugar in there instead and got 'New Coke'.

'New Coke' kills 'Old Coke' in blind tests. It does so well that they're going to replace the original Coke. Well, turns out that the brand for Coca-Cola is so strong, people will ignore their taste buds and truly believe they think the old stuff tastes better. Everyone hates 'New Coke'.

So, Coca-Cola brings back Coca-Cola Classic and it's such a big deal that Peter Jennings (or Rather, or Brokaw, one of those guys) interrupts everyone's regular scheduled programming to announce it.

The lesson in class was about how a brand can actually overshadow the product. But, like I said, this could all be lies :-)
posted by sideshow at 8:25 PM on April 1, 2010


My favorite bit from the whole boondoggle is by the then-Coke CEO: "Some critics will say Coca-Cola made a marketing mistake. Some cynics will say that we planned the whole thing. The truth is we are not that dumb, and we are not that smart."
posted by Evilspork at 8:27 PM on April 1, 2010


Pay attention to the labels - not all bottlers of Mexican Coke use cane sugar. Some use a mix of HFCS and sugar.

If you've got to be sure, this week is the perfect time to stock up on some Passover Coke.
posted by escabeche at 8:30 PM on April 1, 2010


I switched to sencha but Passover Coke is not the same as Mexican Coke. Passover one uses beet sugar, Mexican - cane sugar. IIRC.
posted by rainy at 8:40 PM on April 1, 2010


Here in Idaho, they sell bottles of cane sugar Mexican Coke in the freakin' Wal-Mart.
posted by straight at 8:45 PM on April 1, 2010


Coca-Cola is the most stubborn company. It took them too long to admit that New Coke was a dud. They just wouldn't admit that they were wrong. I think that kind of set a bad precedent as far as treating their customers as if their opinions don't count. Not that I'm any expert on the subject (I'm just an addict), but it seems like they jerk around their loyal customers with a bunch of mind-fucking packaging changes and semantics. I STILL don't know the difference between Diet Coke and Coke Zero. And then there was something like 'Coke 1' a few years back, right (it had one calorie)? Why all the different varieties? Also, their new bottles don't fit in (my) refrigerator. Basically, I'm like Renton in Trainspotting insisting that this'll be my last bottle, that they've officially pushed me too far. But, I know I'm always going to need another hit.

Now, Crystal Pepsi, that was a soda! They should bring it back... RIGHT NOW (Hey! It's your tomorrow.. Oh no, now I have the commercial in my head!)!!!
posted by Mael Oui at 9:10 PM on April 1, 2010


Ok, I had a small fit for a moment before I read the article attached to "quietly went away". I totally went in the wrong direction.
posted by Partario at 9:14 PM on April 1, 2010


Well, turns out that the brand for Coca-Cola is so strong, people will ignore their taste buds and truly believe they think the old stuff tastes better.

Speaking as a Coke-drinker who's picked Coke in a blind taste-test of Coke v. Pepsi, I wonder if the market research finding a 55-45 split in favor of New Coke was really significant enough. I mean, say those 45 percent include a whole lot of cola-lovers, and the 55 percent is mostly people who don't like any cola, but who, if forced to choose, will pick the one that's sweeter and less cola-y (as I find Pepsi to be). They're not going to buy cola anyway, but you've just alienated most of your likely customer base by switching.

I guess what I'm saying is that people don't have to have been brand-blinkered in order for New Coke to have been rejected by cola-drinkers, despite random samplings of people preferring New Coke.
posted by palliser at 9:24 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


F. Ross Johnson: We've spent 350 million dollars and we come up with a turd with a tip? God almighty, Ed! We put enough technology in this project to send a cigarette to the moon and we come up with one that tastes like it took a dump?

Edward A. Horrigan Jr.: We haven't even talked about the smell.

F. Ross Johnson: Oh what did they say that was like? A fart?

Edward A. Horrigan Jr.: Yep.

F. Ross Johnson: Oh you're not serious! They really said that?

2nd Scientist: We have an awful lot of fart figures.

F. Ross Johnson: Tastes like shit and smells like a fart! Got ourselves one hell of a product on our hands it's one unique advertising strategy I'll tell ya that.

Barbarians at the Gate
posted by kirkaracha at 9:26 PM on April 1, 2010


Coca-Cola is a client of mine. According to my contacts there, Diet Coke is the diet version of New Coke and Coke Zero is the diet version of Coke Classic.
posted by mamaquita at 9:40 PM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


My mom wept when they changed the coke recipe - literally wept. I've never seen her so upset over something in my entire life. The woman really loves her Coca-Cola.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:50 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some of us are old enough to remember Tab.
posted by stargell at 10:21 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, turns out that the brand for Coca-Cola is so strong, people will ignore their taste buds and truly believe they think the old stuff tastes better
I have a dim memory of reading about an fMRI study of people drinking various cola drinks. They were watching the pleasure response, or maybe something specific to taste, I forget. The finding was that people did enjoy Pepsi more in blind trials, but when told what they were drinking they literally did enjoy Coke more. That's the power of a century of aggressive, pervasive marketing, I guess.
posted by hattifattener at 11:18 PM on April 1, 2010


I buy RC Cola because not only do I like the taste and it's cheaper but also because it gives me an excuse to revel in delicious stereotype and splurge on Moon Pies.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:53 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not to get all Pepsi Blue here, but I thought I'd mention that, currently, Cherry Zero rules my world. Part of that may have to do with the name, which sounds like what my secret cyberpunk girlfriend would be named.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:10 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I STILL don't know the difference between Diet Coke and Coke Zero."

If you can't taste it your taste buds just might be defective. Coke Zero tastes relatively like Classic Coke. Not quite, but recognizably like it. Diet Coke tastes like foul swill from Satan's own anus.

"And then there was something like 'Coke 1' a few years back, right (it had one calorie)?"

That was Pepsi One. Which might still be on the market, but barely. It was better than Diet Pepsi but not as good as Zero.

The diet Coca-Cola product that amazed me for its badness was Coca-Cola C2, which was supposed to be half the calories of full Coke. Since the best way to make Diet Coke not taste like ass is to mix it partially with real Coke, you would think C2 would be good. It was awful. How did they screw that up?

Speaking of the Pepsi Challenge, I could always pick Coke because it tastes like cinnamon and Pepsi tastes citrusy. (Which normally I would like, but compared to Coke it tastes flat and too sweet.) So when someone above said that Pepsi tastes like cinnamon, I was amused.
posted by litlnemo at 4:53 AM on April 2, 2010


As a certified Coke expert, I have a few things to say.
  1. Passover coke uses beet sugar, NOT cane sugar. BEET SUGAR SUCKS.
  2. "Classic" coke is not the pre-New Coke formula.
  3. New Coke also sucked.
That is all.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:49 AM on April 2, 2010


Hey, Civil_Disobedient: we covered all that.
posted by grubi at 5:59 AM on April 2, 2010


stargell: you can still find Tab in the New Orleans market. One of our store managers lives on that stuff.
posted by komara at 6:18 AM on April 2, 2010


kafziel: "Are the real sugar versions of things limited-time things, or something?"

They'll probably exist until the price of HFCS drops back significantly below the price of cane sugar. That's why they were brought out in the first place — the price of corn spiked, and suddenly HFCS wasn't that much cheaper than real sugar anymore. Hence, real sugar soft drinks.

But if that situation reverses itself — and I think it's supposed to, if it hasn't already — then the real-sugar drinks will mostly disappear (except for the Mexican / Passover / etc. specialty versions).
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:24 AM on April 2, 2010


The finding was that people did enjoy Pepsi more in blind trials, but when told what they were drinking they literally did enjoy Coke more. That's the power of a century of aggressive, pervasive marketing, I guess.

I agree most with what palliser said: if you love cola, "people" might not mean "you." Many's the time I've been given a cola - maybe at a BBQ or bar, sometimes even listed as "Coke" on a menu - only to taste it and know instantly it wasn't Coke. Upon asking I would find it out it was Pepsi or a no-brand. When I worked as a waitress at a pub in my 20s, our menu said "Coke," "Diet Coke," "Sprite" etc - but the sodas were really generics from our beverage company. They had switched years ago and just never bothered to change the menu, and I guess the rep didn't notice or care.

But I noticed - from the first day I worked there I would think "the Coke tastes funny - maybe the syrup-to-soda ratio is off." When I finally asked I learned about the switcheroo.

I hate being told "Oh, it's all in your head, you really can't tell." Of course you can, if you are attentive to the way things taste, and if you are particular about cola. Some people are definitely not. A lot of people are idiots and barely pay attention to what's in their mouths in the first place (or we wouldn't have the food we have in this country). God only knows what they like. But I love Coke. Even though I generally hate giant global corporate products, I fucking love Coke. And the real-sugar version knocks your socks off as compared with a regular - the first time I tried one (only last summer, actually) memories from childhood came rushing back at me. This is what Coke tastes like! Rich, dark, sweet but not cloying.

I've done little stunt taste-tests with friends and have no problem identifying Coke vs. other drinks, though these were not scientific studies. Even so, I've done enough comparitive tasting of foods and beverages to have great confidence that I know what I'm tasting. Coke tastes much better to me. I know I'm not alone in having not only the ability to discern the difference, but a strong preference for my cola over others.
posted by Miko at 6:41 AM on April 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Miko: I'm with you 100%.
posted by grubi at 6:51 AM on April 2, 2010


2006 new yorker blurb on Tab, the (ill-fated, I think) release of Tab Energy, and Tab's cult following. I tried it around that time and remember convulsing a bit after each sip.
posted by condour75 at 7:15 AM on April 2, 2010


There was a fascinating passage about the taste of Coke in a New Yorker article from November (subscription required) about professional flavor scientists:

"Even the most familiar products can bewilder us. Coca-Cola, for instance is primarily a citrus beverage, its flavor derived from lemon, orange, and lime oils, combined with vanilla, cinnamon, other spices, and corn syrup. Its flavor has little in common with the astringent-tasting kola nut, from which it takes its name, and its caramel coloring is largely imposed. For many people, describing Coke's flavor as a combination of different parts is nearly impossible."

The passage goes on, but I don't want to push the limits of fair usage.
posted by ekroh at 8:17 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


That November article was great. I read a different flavor-chemistry piece by Gladwell in the New Yorker that has stuck in my mind for a long time:
When something is high in amplitude, all its constituent elements converge into a single gestalt. You can't isolate the elements of an iconic, high-amplitude flavor like Coca-Cola or Pepsi. But you can with one of those private-label colas that you get in the supermarket. "The thing about Coke and Pepsi is that they are absolutely gorgeous," Judy Heylmun, a vice-president of Sensory Spectrum, Inc., in Chatham, New Jersey, says. "They have beautiful notes—all flavors are in balance. It's very hard to do that well. Usually, when you taste a store cola it's"— and here she made a series of pik! pik! pik! sounds—"all the notes are kind of spiky, and usually the citrus is the first thing to spike out. And then the cinnamon. Citrus and brown spice notes are top notes and very volatile, as opposed to vanilla, which is very dark and deep. A really cheap store brand will have a big, fat cinnamon note sitting on top of everything."
posted by Miko at 9:00 AM on April 2, 2010


I watched a Pepsi Challenge once from the side. Anyone could see that the two girls running it were simply just switching the samples left to right, with no variation on the pattern. So you could count heads and know, with 100% certainty, that when Person X got to the front of the line, which cup would have Coke and which would have Pepsi.
posted by bentley at 9:12 AM on April 2, 2010


A lot of people are idiots and barely pay attention to what's in their mouths in the first place (or we wouldn't have the food we have in this country). God only knows what they like. But I love Coke.

I find it ironic that you favourited my snark about not putting shit in your body, call a lot of people idiots for putting shit in their bodies, and then stake your claim of love for putting shit in your body.

Addiction is a real bitch.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:28 AM on April 2, 2010


Do you find it ironic? I find it human.

Addicted? I drink soda maybe 3-4 times a month. I admitted that it's at odds with my general beliefs and activism efforts around food, but I don't claim perfection. In fact, I defend the right for people to define what constitutes a treat for them and to enjoy it - it would be dumb of me to demand purity in all things at all times. People aren't like that, and it would be a good way to kill off a movement I'm trying to grow.

This isn't as cognitively dissonant for me as it seems to be for you. When people to "put shit in their bodies" all day every day, as we do if we buy most of the stuff in most of the grocery store aisles, we develop serious health and environmental problems. But if people make those things a rare exception and generall eat a healthier diet, foods that are not nutrionally beneficial would appear rarely enough not to cause significant harm. If all soda drinkers had one soda a week, that would be a drastic decrease in empty calories and relagate the beverage back where it should be in our diets -a treat.

But thanks for your concern; I know you have my best interests at heart. If you'd like to discuss my diet more, I'm available via MeMail.
posted by Miko at 9:44 AM on April 2, 2010


I'm just ribbing you.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:23 AM on April 2, 2010


Miko -- I definitely remember reading that article, but didn't know it was Gladwell. I wish he would get back to writing articles like that instead of churning out essentially the same formulaic article in the New Yorker every other month or so.
posted by ekroh at 10:55 AM on April 2, 2010


Sorry, fff. I couldn't tell, and I'm probably oversensitive around here these days.

I definitely am oversensitive about Coke. It's probably my biggest guilty pleasure since I became a nonsmoker years ago.
posted by Miko at 12:03 PM on April 2, 2010


I don't like soft drinks generally (seltzer or club soda is ok), but I'll have an occasional Coke if I'm outside the U.S. Usually it's better than drinking the water in some places.
Friend of mine from South America came in a bit back. In addition to learning the wonderment that is wasabi for the first time (and how it is not to be eaten like bunuelos despite prompting from my kids) he got his first American coke. He was more upset by the taste of the Coke than the mouthful of horseradish.

Y'know, why didn't they just change the formula to the new coke and not tell anyone?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:13 PM on April 2, 2010


The bitter war that is Coke vs Pepsi used to play out regularly in my house, with me firmly in the sane and rational Coke camp, and my lunatic (probably Satan worshiping) wife swilling down that vile filth that is Pepsi.

As time has passed, we both cut down our soda consumption considerably and she switched to the diet version of that toxic waste, but occasionally, she'll crave a soda and none is around but my Coke.

That's when I have the last laugh.

Until I realize that it was also my last soda, and now I have none.

Then it's her. Laughing at me. Drinking my blessed nectar of the gods, while I had none.

(As I write this, I realize that my victory might not have been as complete as I thought.)
posted by quin at 3:42 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm amazed that 25 year old cans still have any liquid in them. Usually after a year or so, you end up with little pinholes in the bottom from where the acid eats through the aluminum, resulting in empty cans sitting on a dried puddle of cola.

Yes, I discovered this when a case of Buzz Cola leaked through the cans. They were selling it to promote The Simpsons Movie, and I thought I was being smart by buying a case and putting it on a shelf in the closet, unopened (to sell later as a collectible for a gigantic profit, at which point I retire and buy an island somewhere). I discovered it when I moved. The cola had also partially eaten through the pressboard shelving and had made a fairly big hole, but on the plus side I discovered that linoleum tile will hold up to cola, as well as the walls of a modern manufactured home, whatever it's covered with.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:00 PM on April 2, 2010


I was always partial to Dr. Pepper, myself, but anything with real sugar is better than the HFCS counterpart. But these days I avoid refined sugars and drink Fresca or diet root beer, if I'm drinking soda. Hey, Fresca has real grapefruit juice! No nutritional value, but still ...
posted by krinklyfig at 5:04 PM on April 2, 2010


I believe at the time of the switch Pepsi had started to outsell Coke at supermarkets. What gave Coke the overall edge was its exclusive presence at McDonald's. So they did have some reason to worry.

What I remember from my own experience was just shrugging it off as another "new and improved" product -- happens all the time. I can still recall buying New Coke after the return of Classic.
posted by evilcolonel at 5:16 PM on April 2, 2010


I believe at the time of the switch Pepsi had started to outsell Coke at supermarkets.

Michael Jackson endorsed Pepsi. It was the Pepsi Generation. It was scary!
posted by Miko at 8:05 PM on April 2, 2010


....You're right! Passover Coke time! I forgot about that!

My only Coke Classic/not/whatever story: in the early 90's, my best friend and her then-boyfriend bought their first car, and decided to break it in with a drive somewhere to stock back up on soda. But the supermarket where they lived in Connecticut was only a block away, so they decided to make a road trip out of it.

So, they told us, they drove to Canada. They drove due north only until they'd crossed the border, bought a 2-liter bottle at the first store they saw, turned around and went home.

At first, people didn't believe their story, so they brought out the bottle -- which was proudly labelled "Coke Classique".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of people are idiots and barely pay attention to what's in their mouths [...]
[...] I fucking love Coke


Are you really Miko?

Just kidding. Well, now we know what it takes to get Miko riled up. Better not mess with her Coca-Cola.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:20 PM on April 3, 2010


Coincidentally, I ate at a Mexican restaurant today and had my first Jarritos (the pineapple flavor). It was pretty good.

The wikipedia article (linked above) says that "jarritos" means "little jars". It also says that it means "jugs". Would someone who's bilingual clear that up for me? If the latter is correct, is the term used metaphorically in the same way as it is in English?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:58 PM on April 3, 2010


The best soft drinks I've ever had were the Cokes that my brother (gone these thirty-five years now) used to buy me in the early sixties when I was a kid—the ones in the green glass bottles from the Coca-Cola machine with the narrow vertical door at the gas station on Third Street. They were wonderful, and I doubt any other will ever taste as good.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:04 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, jarro is... well, it can be either "mug" or "jar." Jarrito is the diminutive.

By "metaphorically," do you mean "boobies"? Because, I mean, the Spanish-speaking world is a big place, and maybe someone uses the word that way, but I've sure never heard of it. Slang just doesn't translate reliably, and you shouldn't expect jarritos to mean "tits" in Spanish anymore than you'd expect "big egg" to mean huevón in English.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:13 PM on April 4, 2010


By "metaphorically," do you mean "boobies"?

Yes. Thanks for clarifying what "jarrito" means.

I don't really expect slang to translate directly; I was just trying to funny. But if you'd care to expound further on Spanish slang, I'm all ears. (I bet that doesn't translate, either.)
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:43 PM on April 4, 2010


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