Change is something the American people identify with
July 9, 2019 8:02 AM   Subscribe

New Coke Didn’t Fail. It Was Murdered. Far from the dud it’s been made out to be, New Coke was actually delicious—or at least, most people who tried it thought so. Some of its harshest critics couldn’t even taste a difference. It was done in by a complicated web of interests, a mixture of cranks and opportunists—a sugar-starved mob of pitchfork-clutching Andy Rooneys, powered by the thrill of rebellion and an aggrieved sense of dispossession. At its most fundamental level, the backlash wasn’t about New Coke at all. It was a revolt against the idea of change. That story should sound familiar. We’re still living it.
posted by Cash4Lead (132 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
I tried it. I didn't think it was delicious. I thought it was Pepsi, and I don't like Pepsi as much as I like Coke.

Given the opportunity, though, I'd take the return of Jolt.
posted by mephron at 8:07 AM on July 9 [39 favorites]


Yeah, that's epic bullshit. It tasted just like Pepsi. I remember very clearly how bad it was. It's like every other generic cola soda, which tastes like Pepsi. If I wanted a Pepsi, I'd drink a Pepsi. And I guarantee that I will never want a Pepsi.
posted by teleri025 at 8:12 AM on July 9 [33 favorites]


It sucked. As the folks above have said it was Pepsi.

If I wanted a goddamned Pepsi I'd get Pepsi.

Hell RC Cola has more flavor than new coke did.
posted by Max Power at 8:14 AM on July 9 [12 favorites]


If you still want New Coke, drink Diet Coke, they share the same formula.

For the record, Diet Coke tastes like malted battery acid.

(slurps his Coke Zero, derived from the classic Coke formula)
posted by jscalzi at 8:15 AM on July 9 [22 favorites]


You know, America has enough real problems with lingering "Southern rebellion" let's just leave the Cola Wars out of it. Worst take 2019. Mother Jones, keep your powder dry.

And yeah, New Coke really didn't taste right. I have no idea if objectively I would have liked it better without a history of drinking Old Coke. Neither does anyone else, because products have histories.

Also: sugary soda drinks are poison and slowly kill people. All kinds, but HFCS is worse.
posted by Nelson at 8:17 AM on July 9 [10 favorites]


I was about 12 or 13 when New Coke came out. I was very excited about it, because soda was my #1 favorite vice at that age. I was fine with New Coke I thought, but then I found some "old coke" at a local gas station. I was completely blown away by how much better it tasted. So much so I rode my damn bike all over town buying up 2-liters of it wherever I could find it, using up whatever meager profits my paper route gave me.

I wasn't even aware that there was some "complicated web of interests" around New Coke. It was just...BAD.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:18 AM on July 9 [10 favorites]


Memory is a funny thing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:20 AM on July 9 [10 favorites]


Diet Pepsi is the only one worth drinking. And I still feel that way after approx. 16,000 litres of the stuff. Diet Coke is just sort of watery-tasting to me.
posted by pipeski at 8:20 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


I still think the New Coke thing was a stunt to get viral buzz about the original Coca Cola. Pre-internet viral, but viral nonetheless.

And it worked.
posted by SoberHighland at 8:21 AM on July 9 [7 favorites]


I still can't really tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. They both always taste of rum. Maybe I'm mixing them wrong.
posted by philip-random at 8:23 AM on July 9 [58 favorites]


It sucked. As the folks above have said it was Pepsi.

If I wanted a goddamned Pepsi I'd get Pepsi.


As the article points out, in the 1980s, a lot of people wanted exactly that - Coke was losing market share to Pepsi, who was using that as fuel for their advertising (this was the era of the Pepsi Taste Test and the "Choice of a New Generation" campaigns.) Given that, it is not surprising that Coke moved towards their competition, given that it seemed that they better understood the market - and as the article points out, the initial reception was well received - it was the media looking for a story that created the controversy (sound familiar?)

It's easy to argue that it was a mistake now, but if we look at the actual historic record, Coke's decision makes clear sense.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:24 AM on July 9 [11 favorites]


I still think the New Coke thing was a stunt to get viral buzz about the original Coca Cola.

I was surprised to read that they gave up on New Coke after only two months (which is much shorter than I remembered). For all the years of planning, they gave up on it very, very quickly. It only strengthens my suspicions I had then and still hold now -- that it was just to get people excited again about a very old product.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:27 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


It's pretty well accepted that New Coke was Coca-Cola's overreaction to the Pepsi Challenge, which was predicated on the idea that somehow millions of people were brainwashed by marketing into thinking that they preferred Coke over Pepsi (much as TFA believes that millions of people were brainwashed into hating New Coke), and that if they tried it in a blind taste test, they'd switch. Thing is, even though people may prefer a single sip of a sweeter drink, they still preferred Coke in larger quantities than a sip. Pepsi never beat Coke in the overall market, even after Coke lost some people when they switched to New Coke, and the sales bounced back when Coke reintroduced Old Coke as Coca-Cola Classic. (In fairness, this is mentioned very late in TFA.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:28 AM on July 9 [18 favorites]


First they came for New Coke, and I didn't speak up, because I didn't give a damn.

Then they came for Crystal Pepsi, and I didn't speak up because what they're just leaving out the coloring?

And when they come for me there will only be expired store brand simulants of Dr Pepper
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:29 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


Is this post part of a stealth marketing campaign for Pepsi Blue?
posted by kaibutsu at 8:30 AM on July 9 [7 favorites]


For me, the taste of the eighties was Diet Cherry Coke and Cool Ranch Doritos.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:35 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Thing is, even though people may prefer a single sip of a sweeter drink, they still preferred Coke in larger quantities than a sip. Pepsi never beat Coke in the overall market, even after Coke lost some people when they switched to New Coke, and the sales bounced back when Coke reintroduced Old Coke as Coca-Cola Classic. (In fairness, this is mentioned very late in TFA.)

Also in fairness, the article debunks Malcolm Gladwell's argument:
This helps explain why Pepsi (generally considered sweeter) based its whole ad campaign around taste tests, and why the New Coke tests led the company astray. People liked the first sip more, but maybe not the last hundred. This is a comforting explanation: It was actually a bad soda and here’s the science that proves it. By playing the first-sip game, Coca-Cola was essentially conceding the point to its opponent. As one Pepsi ad put it, “The other guy blinked.”

But many people really do prefer Pepsi, even after that all-important first taste. And the post-rollout company surveys of people who had finished their cans found a favorability for New Coke that matched the first-sip test. Maybe the sweet drink winning the sweet-drink contest doesn’t need too many caveats. Soft-drink trends have also proven Coke right about a willingness to adapt to new tastes: A majority of Coke sales today are non-Classic products, such as Diet and Coke Zero. Interestingly, people who have sampled New Coke in recent weeks, at places like BuzzFeed and Food & Wine, have given the beverage high marks because it reminds them of Diet Coke—it tasted weird then; it tastes like what’s normal now.
It's telling how much of the mythos around New Coke continues to resonate, even when the facts are right there, because it is more comforting to consider that a major corporation didn't do their homework rather than the idea that a few firebrands enabled by the media can create a damaging media firestorm.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:35 AM on July 9 [8 favorites]


It was a revolt against the idea of change.

The idea that "change" is a distinct entity ,which is always desirable, is so idiotic. People were against something they liked being ruined, not against "change".
posted by thelonius at 8:35 AM on July 9 [13 favorites]


Old Cola Drinkers of America didn’t start off as a populist campaign. It was a hustle, plain and simple. Its founder hoped to sow conflict and cash in on it by getting either Coca-Cola or Pepsi to buy him out.

I think this explains a lot of it, as well.
posted by xingcat at 8:37 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


American culture has had many moral failings through the years. Rejecting New Coke is unambiguously not one of them.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:37 AM on July 9 [9 favorites]


it is not surprising that Coke moved towards their competition, given that it seemed that they better understood the market

Hmm, so you’re saying a major brand tried to appeal to a broader audience by becoming more like their competitor, because they assumed the competition had a better grasp of the American public? And in so doing abandoned the unique qualities that had made them popular in the first place? Hmmmmm.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:37 AM on July 9 [17 favorites]


...calling this article a stretch would be an understatement - it tasted terrible IMO.
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 8:39 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Some still have scars from the Cola Wars, but those wars drove significant technological and tastological advances, like 1985's Cherry Coke.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 8:39 AM on July 9 [14 favorites]


They should have just changed it and said nothing. Saved a lot of hassle.

I am, however, horrified by the new Irn Bru. It tastes like the cheap knock-offs you'd get in vending machines, not the real Barr's. I can barely drink it now.
posted by scruss at 8:39 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


I find the popularity of cola in general bizarre. It's like the worst tasting soda out there. It's a weird medicinal blend of nasty flavors covered with cloying sweetness. Then again, I genuinely like coffee, which supposedly tastes objectively bad, so who am I to judge?
posted by rikschell at 8:41 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


This was when I was around ten or eleven. I loved Coke but I was also totally open to the idea of a New Coke, and then as it turned out I didn't like the new thing at all.

My wife has a shirt from Effin' Birds that says "Please, tell me more about my own goddamn experiences" and now I feel like I need one of my own.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:43 AM on July 9 [20 favorites]


But in the early 1980s, the company’s fortunes were sagging. Soft drink sales were down across the board, but Coke was losing ground to the smoother, sweeter Pepsi. Coke was still doing well in places with a captive market, like restaurants or concessionaires, but at stores—where consumers had a choice—sales were dropping in a way that Pepsi’s weren’t.

What a tidy example of everything I hate about contemporary corporate business strategy. If you don't post significant sales gains every single consecutive quarter, your product is "failing" and you need to changeitchangeitquick!
posted by desuetude at 8:43 AM on July 9 [7 favorites]


Then they came for Crystal Pepsi, and I didn't speak up because what they're just leaving out the coloring?

They have reintroduced Crystal Pepsi for a limited time here in Canada, and it's definitely what I remember: not tasting so much like Pepsi, but like burnt Pepsi. It's definitely its own thing, and... not disagreeable? But once the nostalgia trip was over, I didn't need to go back again.

posted by Capt. Renault at 8:43 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]




You know, America has enough real problems with lingering "Southern rebellion" let's just leave the Cola Wars out of it. Worst take 2019

I still love that 'rockin roller cola wars' is apparently the event after which Billy Joel "can't take this anymore".
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:46 AM on July 9 [17 favorites]


I find the popularity of cola in general bizarre. It's like the worst tasting soda out there. It's a weird medicinal blend of nasty flavors covered with cloying sweetness.

Right? If you want a fizzy sugar drink, there are so many tastier ones out there. Though I'll grant the colas one thing: at least they aren't completely pointless like Sprite and 7-Up.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:47 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


i can't tell the difference between coke and pepsi and i think i would feel weird about it if i could, bc that would mean i was drinking Too Much Soda.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:48 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


This is classic Slatepitching. Is Mother Jones losing readers to Slate?
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:49 AM on July 9 [25 favorites]


Anecdotally, my friend across the street had a mother who was a big time Coke drinker. When New Coke first came out, she was horrified with the taste and somehow bought an entire pallet of "Original" Coke.

I still remember it sitting in their basement blocking much of the space where we used to play floor hockey. I don't think she came close to finishing it before Classic Coke came out.
posted by Sphinx at 8:49 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


*chugs a 2L bottle of warm, flat Diet Squirt; shrugs*
posted by duffell at 8:50 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


I find the popularity of cola in general bizarre. It's like the worst tasting soda out there. It's a weird medicinal blend of nasty flavors covered with cloying sweetness.

Cola's generally have caffeine, which is most of the appeal for me. I can only think of a few non-cola sodas that have caffeine, such as Barq's root beer and Sunkist orange soda.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:50 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Why everything you thought you knew about this thing you barely remember and didn't have any serious opinions about is WRONG, and why that matters.

Anyway, any drink regularly consumed as the exclusive delivery mechanism for caffeine will become delicious, your palate doesn't have priority on this decision.
posted by skewed at 8:53 AM on July 9 [7 favorites]


Man am I glad the majority here agree that new coke was grody to the max. Seriously gag me with a spoon how bad it was. Now if you'll excuse me I need to go put on my z cavariccci pants and a pair of Sebago dock siders and pop on a flock of seagulls LP.
posted by chasles at 8:53 AM on July 9 [15 favorites]


When I was a small child in Atlanta, our pediatrician would sometimes prescribe Coke. "Just give him a little Co-Coler," he'd say. I'd like to see someone try that now!
posted by thelonius at 8:59 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


This is only being rehashed because of the new season of Stranger Things, right?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:59 AM on July 9 [18 favorites]


Yes. It turns out New Coke was bottled in the Upside Down, which explains a lot.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:03 AM on July 9 [18 favorites]


I believe new Coke is still pretty easily sampled at the Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, where it is called Coke II. Someone inevitably pipes up with "Well, actually this is 'New Coke.'" Even before this comes out, I have only ever seen people react to it by instantly saying, "This tastes like Pepsi" and then saying that either they still prefer regular Coke, or that they like it better, because they like Pepsi better.

So I have a hard time with the idea that public response to New Coke was somehow a result of manipulation, instead of just being what people say when they try it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:10 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


At its most fundamental level, the backlash wasn’t about New Coke at all. It was a revolt against the idea of change. That story should sound familiar. We’re still living it.

And the reason we're living it is because a bunch of rich wankers got behind promoting the Who Moved My Cheese worldview, which says that change for its own sake is a good thing and an opportunity, and that people who complain about gratuitous change are just whining losers who have something wrong with them.

The complaints that this particular piece of reactionary Clinton-era bullshit came in response to were of course completely legitimate, the result of creeping job insecurity and steadily declining workplace quality as the brave new world of the Third Way really started to bite. But Who Moved My Cheese has now been internalized to the extent that most people actually do think that change for its own sake is a good thing.

It fucking isn't. It always has unanticipated costs, and those costs are always unnecessary and completely avoidable.

Change for the sake of improvement also has costs, and in many cases the improvement turns out to be worth those. But deliberately making changes for no better reason than that they are changes is just straight-up ego-driven bullshit, always and everywhere.

It's no coincidence that the first thing that any new head of marketing does is change the logo.
posted by flabdablet at 9:18 AM on July 9 [23 favorites]


I like the acid edge of a freshly poured coke over ice, which Pepsi and New Coke don't have. I'd agree that the fountain versions of the two often don't differ much, but I'm with the poster above who just *loves* being told what their experiences really were.
posted by tavella at 9:19 AM on July 9 [8 favorites]


Also, there is a reason stores increasingly have small amounts of Coca Cola from Mexico. This is because anyone who likes Coke will, when poured a cold glass of the Mexican stuff have a goddam out-of-body experience when they taste cola made with real sugar instead of corn syrup. It is not a subtle difference that only connoisseurs can taste or that people simply imagine to be there. It's night and day.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:21 AM on July 9 [14 favorites]


At its most fundamental level, the backlash wasn’t about New Coke at all. It was a revolt against the idea of change. That story should sound familiar. We’re still living it.

All these Millennials with their whining about their student debt and diminished health care access and wildly increasing costs of housing are really just against change.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:23 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


This is only being rehashed because of the new season of Stranger Things, right?

Pretty obviously, yes. I'd go further and just assume that this is paid advertorial content scheduled for maximum brand synergy.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:28 AM on July 9 [9 favorites]


New Coke definitely didn't taste like Pepsi to my mid-western tongue. However, it was closer in taste to pepsi than it was to the original coke. I also preferred New over both Pepsi and the original.

But then I'm also the weirdo who, if you added in a fourth option of Crystal Pepsi, is drinking the clear product. And yes, I've been enjoying the re-release of crystal pepsi for my about 1 soda per month habit. With crystal pepsi, I wouldn't care/try if they re-introduced new coke.
posted by nobeagle at 9:29 AM on July 9


If you still want New Coke, drink Diet Coke, they share the same formula.

They absolutely do not. New Coke, like Pepsi, was super sweet. Diet Coke tastes less sweet than Coke and way less sweet than Pepsi.
posted by srboisvert at 9:34 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Yeah the article is a bit silly, but I can totally believe this was an example of that conservative aspect in American culture which reacts in a completely over-the-top manner to small changes because they somehow represent larger cultural shifts that feel alienating to certain people.

It makes me think of the resistance to changing anything about US currency even though there are great reasons to do so. Getting rid of the penny because it's pointless, using dollar coins like every other advanced economy does for it's lowest whole-number denominations, making banknotes of different sizes so people with visual impairments can easily tell denominations apart, putting non-white, non-male, people on... anything. Just you wait -- when the Harriet Tubman $20 bill starts circulating (if that ever does happen) people will lose their shit.

I have no recollection of what New Coke tasted like and I believe those of you who genuinely hated it, but the idea that some grifter who's in for a quick buck can exploit some small change like this to rile up large scale reactionary feelings shouldn't be too much of a stretch.
posted by theory at 9:34 AM on July 9 [10 favorites]


I still prefer slurm.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:38 AM on July 9 [8 favorites]


If we're still alive, I'm looking forward to the 1990s grunge revision of Stranger Things coming out ten years from now. SURGE never really got its day in the sun.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:42 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


You have to wait until Red Sea partin' time, but keep an eye out for the yellow-capped, Kosher for Passover Coke bottles which use real sugar instead of HFCS.
posted by whuppy at 9:42 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


I still prefer slurm.

Pffft. Brawndo or GTFO.
posted by flabdablet at 9:44 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


Man am I glad the majority here agree that new coke was grody to the max. Seriously gag me with a spoon how bad it was. Now if you'll excuse me I need to go put on my z cavariccci pants and a pair of Sebago dock siders and pop on a flock of seagulls LP.

Stranger Things can't bring back the eighties. Here is a video of the Flock of Seagulls reunion performance of Space Age Love Song with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The 100 mile cheese toss is that the lead singer of the most iconic eighties new wave hair band is now bald.
posted by srboisvert at 9:44 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I still prefer slurm.

Whimmy-wham-wham wozzle!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:44 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


But then I'm also the weirdo who, if you added in a fourth option of Crystal Pepsi, is drinking the clear product.
Crystal Pepsi ruled, because they ran 'free soda' contests, and you could just look into the bottom of the bottle at the inside cap and see if you had a winner or not. I paid for one and drank like 100.

Also Coke truly was in trouble as the number of alternate drinks was exploding, and their market share then was way bigger than it is now, but just starting to dwindle. I think you could liken it to the current craft vs mega brewers battle of today, except that both Coke and Pepsi saw the writing on the wall and diversified into healthier drink and snack options rather than skirmishing over shelf space to their competitors.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:45 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


I'd always assumed that New Coke was intentionally introduced on a temporary basis while the Coca Cola Co. switched over the sweetener in "Classic/Old Coke" from cane sugar to corn syrup.

Sort of a distraction from possibly noticing "hey, this week's coke tastes different from last week's coke" by just taking regular old Coke off the shelves for a quarter. And then generate relief when it was reintroduced on the shelves. Then again, I may just just prone to conspiratorial thinking. Was there a publicly knowable date when the "Classic" Coke sweetener was cutover to corn syrup in the US?
posted by atomo at 9:47 AM on July 9 [8 favorites]


atomo: As a Coke executive, sampled in the Negativland album I linked to upthread, said: "The truth is, we're not that dumb... and we're not that smart."
posted by SansPoint at 9:50 AM on July 9 [7 favorites]


They sucked his brains out!: "Some still have scars from the Cola Wars, but those wars drove significant technological and tastological advances, like 1985's Cherry Coke."

Cherry (and Vanilla) Coke had been around informally for decades, from the soda fountain days. 1985 is just when it went corporate.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:54 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


Ever since I was a little kid in the One Formulation Era, Coca Cola tasted "hot" to me: the carbonation burned. New Coke was softer, but not enough to surmount my years of aversion. Since nobody in my family can see further than their own personal preferences, this meant that I did not drink soft-drinks much as a kid, since why would someone who likes one soft drink ever buy another? Until I started getting jobs in fast food, and later when I had a girlfriend who was committed to Diet Pepsi (Diet Pepsi is its own species), I was essentially relegated to nonfat milk at home.

I'd go further and just assume that this is paid advertorial content scheduled for maximum brand synergy.

Stranger Things Blue!
posted by rhizome at 9:54 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


theory: "It makes me think of the resistance to changing anything about US currency even though there are great reasons to do so."

We used to change coins and currencies all the time. People get used to things that don't change.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:59 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


The only Coke controversy I have an opinion on (I doubt I drink 6 sodas in a year) is the real sugar (sucrose) vs. corn syrup (fructose) one.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:01 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


Also, there is a reason stores increasingly have small amounts of Coca Cola from Mexico.

I was just at the grocery store; they had a stand of 355 ml (12 fl oz) Coke bottles, labelled, in English and Spanish, "A Taste Of Home". Price per bottle? $1.79. So that's another reason they have it.....
posted by thelonius at 10:09 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


srboisvert, on the matter of New Coke and Diet Coke sharing the same formula:

They absolutely do not.

Well, actually:

Enter New Coke. When traditional methods of developing a new taste failed, Coca-Cola pulled a reverse on the old method of creating diet soft drinks. Diet Coke was stripped of its artificial sweeteners, and high fructose corn syrup was added in their place.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/knew-coke/

Note that New Coke's formula is slightly rejiggered from Diet Coke. But it is absolutely derived from it, not from Coke itself and not made from scratch.

Also, Diet Coke still tastes like malted battery acid.
posted by jscalzi at 10:14 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


atomo: I always thought that too, but the article points out that the sugar/HFCS switch happened five years before New Coke.
posted by spenser at 10:16 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


What happened with New Coke is exactly why the US can’t have single payer universal healthcare. Literally any change to Americans’ daily experience, no matter how minor, will shortly be followed with accusations of conspiracy! and communism! by certain attention-getting segments of the media.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:17 AM on July 9 [14 favorites]


A majority of Coke sales today are non-Classic products, such as Diet and Coke Zero.

That has nothing to do with whether people like the flavor better than Classic Coke. The diet industry persuading people that there is "healthy soda" (or at least, "not-unhealthy soda") was one of their greatest achievements.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:17 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


/not defending the coca-cola corporation and specifically not defending HFCS
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:17 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


But they assured me through the magic of television that it was as real as the way I feel!

Bill Cosby too! He wouldn't lie, would he?
posted by hearthpig at 10:33 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


I have opinions about this.

1. No one ever goes into a restaurant and says "Can I have a Pepsi?" and the waiter replies, "Is Coca-Cola OK?"
2. I vividly remember being excited about New Coke and then tremendously disappointed on tasting it. And then excited again when Coke returned.
3. All I wanted was a Pepsi.
posted by chavenet at 10:46 AM on July 9 [7 favorites]


For the record, Diet Coke tastes like malted battery acid.

I prefer to describe it as having a crisp, metallic finish, with notes of tin and acid rain.

Ngl, I adore it and treasure it on those rare days when I order a diet coke, light ice, slice of lemon. I mostly stick to unsweet tea, extra ice, because as my mother likes to remind me, diet coke one of the worst things you can put in your body. It's full of toxins. The toxins are what makes it delicious, I say, after I close FaceTime.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:48 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


Diet Coke still tastes like malted battery acid.

You keep saying that like it's a bad thing!
posted by explosion at 10:48 AM on July 9 [8 favorites]


New Coke was introduced right in the middle of my peak cola drinking years (I was 20) and I distinctly remember it being different. Not markedly better or worse...just different. But then again, I can happily drink classic Coke, new Coke, Pepsi, RC, Cott, President's Choice, Pop Shoppe, whatever. They are all similar, but different.
posted by rocket88 at 11:27 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


"New Coke wasn't murdered, Sam," Veronica told me. "He died in the Cola Wars. It's sad when a soldier bites the big one, but it isn't murder."

I stubbed my cigarette out in the shot glass. I'd already drained the last dregs of whiskey out of it. "That's not the whole picture."

"You're grieving," she said. "We all are. We all lost people we loved. Hubba Bubba. Josta. Tab Clear."

I stood up and looked through the dirty glass of my office window. Outside, the clouds were promising a lousy day for picnics, but at least it'd be a break from the heat.

"It wouldn't have been a crime if New Coke had been killed by another soldier, Vee. You're right, that's a tragedy, but it's a tragedy we'd all just have to live with. But New Coke didn't die in a battle. He was assassinated. Killed by a conspiracy. A complicated web of interests. Cranks and opportunists who wanted him gone."

"Sam." Vera reached a tentative hand towards my shoulder. "Sam, did you ever think that maybe New Coke didn't make it because he ... just wasn't very good?"

"YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH!" I screamed. "NEW COKE WAS DELICIOUS! DELICIOUS! YOU'RE A LIAR! YOU'RE ALL LIARS! ALL OF YOUUUUUUUUUU!"
posted by kyrademon at 11:28 AM on July 9 [40 favorites]


I always thought New Coke was introduced as a way to cover the change of regular Coca Cola from sucrose to HFCS.

The new season of Stranger Things has what is easily a minute + long advertisement for New Coke where the product placement and comments are so blatant it's comical. Of course they rereleased it with Stranger Things branding.
posted by sleeping bear at 11:51 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


kyrademon: "Hubba Bubba"

My mother wouldn't let me chew gum. So when Hubba Bubba came out with a spearmint version backed with loads of advertising, I bought a pack on the sly, climbed a tree, and put all seven pieces in my mouth at once.

Big bubbles, no troubles.
posted by chavenet at 12:03 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


I recall this very well. I heard (true?) that one of the reasons they changed the formula was to not use Cuban cane sugar (we dislike Cuba since Castro told the CIA assisted overthrow of their government to then fuck off and wouldn't let US businesses in although that "secret" military torture camp is still there). So Coke changed to corn sugar to subsidize US corn and deny Cuba income from their cane crops. One of the reasons, anyway.

"New" Coke replaced cane sugar with corn syrup sugar. That's when all the ads and taste test stuff came out.

Agree with the above posts: "New" Coke is just like Pepsi: too sweet. Noted that if you get either really really cold, they aren't as terrible as they are warmer (which is truly awful).

If you want to try original Coke and do your own taste test, find Mexican Coke. Many stores in the US still carry it. It still uses cane sugar in the original formula.

Edit: "Classic" Coke still used corn syrup and was just as bad...that was just an ad gimmick.
posted by CrowGoat at 12:24 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


I think I picked the wrong day to give up soda
posted by ntk at 12:33 PM on July 9 [5 favorites]


hmm let's spin this out. if postwar america was coke (losing market share, i.e., a downward spiralling middle class), and the 90s-00s was new coke (modern life being rejected by angry conservatives), and the hellscape of today is coke classic (a weakly rebranded return to the original, with extra meanness), then what future version of america will "zesty blood orange coke" be?
posted by wibari at 12:40 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Hubba Bubba

god i just remembered big league chew
posted by poffin boffin at 12:49 PM on July 9 [9 favorites]


So I have a hard time with the idea that public response to New Coke was somehow a result of manipulation, instead of just being what people say when they try it.

Presumably the media manipulation is in turning the choice of two slightly distinguishable sodas into a huge deal. The thing is, the branding of Coke vs. Pepsi vs. whatever is not much less artificial in the first place so there's something satisfying about watching one set of soda execs get blown out of the water because they don't grasp that, played correctly, the conservative associations of their brand are worth more to them than anything.
posted by atoxyl at 12:49 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


Big bubbles, no troubles.

Except for the spider eggs. But no other troubles.
posted by The Bellman at 1:07 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


I love the “I don’t care what your data says, I know what I know.” responses in this thread.

Coke, Pepsi, RC, whatever. They all taste similarly fine. Based on some of the responses, you’d think New Coke was a dramatic difference in taste. It really wasn’t.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:14 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


If you want to try original Coke and do your own taste test, find Mexican Coke.
I've always found the Mexican code (and all the real sugar versions of Pepsi and Dr Pepper and others - they aren't hard to find) have a really odd aftertaste, like really sugary KoolAid maybe. I actually slightly prefer HFCS.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:18 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


I assumed the reference above was to Hubba Bubba Soda, not the gum. While I didn't think it was particularly good tasting, Hubba Bubba Soda is so unique and tied to specific events in my young life that I can still taste it when I think about certain events or people so it tastes pretty good in my memories. If you've never tried Hubba Bubba Soda and want the chance, Rowdy Roddy Piper Bubble Gum Soda (I'm not sure either) is actually pretty close to the same thing.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:27 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


it is more comforting to consider that a major corporation didn't do their homework rather than the idea that a few firebrands enabled by the media can create a damaging media firestorm.

Well, some people would be more comforted by the latter, including, apparently, the author of TFA. But the author in no way refutes Gladwell's hypothesis. If people liked New Coke that much, they wouldn't have to revive Coke II for Stranger Things; it would still be around, just as the company has two major diet product versions of Coke. It isn't. The author also includes howlers like this:

The journalist Bartow Elmore’s Citizen Coke speculates that the Reagan administration’s escalating drug war may have added a level of urgency to the company’s long-range planning by threatening Peruvian coca production.

Every version of the Coca-Cola formula that's been published (there have been a few) shows only trace amounts of coca leaf extract; the idea that the beverage might be threatened by a few coca fields being torched in the drug war is nonsense.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:01 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Coke, Pepsi, RC, whatever. They all taste similarly fine.

I mean, there are people right here in the this thread who are saying that they experience something different than you do.

You can choose to believe that they're deluding themselves but why would you? As for me, RC is disgusting, Pepsi is tolerable, and Coke is the Gold Standard of brown colas. They don't all taste the same...to me.
posted by cooker girl at 2:15 PM on July 9 [10 favorites]


I can taste the differences in all the colas, but give me a (good) root beer, ginger beer, or best a *birch* beer! Coke (or whatever brown liquid is available) is for random dull receptions sans vino where tepid coffee has been simmering for hours and you just need something. One sip and a beautiful young person leaps into your experience... NOT.
posted by sammyo at 2:34 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


Wait a minute...a long Coke thread and no one mentions OK Soda?

It was cooked up by the same guy who came up with New Coke. No idea what it tasted like, but the cans (thanks to Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns) were wonderful. Lasted from 1993 to 1995.
posted by kozad at 2:48 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


If you want a fizzy sugar drink, there are so many tastier ones out there.

A 12 oz glass of seltzer water with a finger of grape juice concentrate is perfect, if you'd like a grape soda that's not as sweet as what they sell in cans & bottles.
posted by straight at 2:59 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


No one ever goes into a restaurant and says "Can I have a Pepsi?" and the waiter replies, "Is Coca-Cola OK?"

Yeah, but I'll bet a lot of people ask for Mountain Dew and get told, sorry we have Coke products.
posted by straight at 3:03 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


remember the outrage when beer companies changed their 60s and 70s formulas to more tasteless brews, some of which had the audacity to proclaim themselves light, or lite, even?

hmm, me neither - funny how that worked
posted by pyramid termite at 3:05 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


About two decades ago, I was on break, and I bought a Coke from a vending machine. As I drank it, I idly thought about how I would describe the taste to somebody who had never had a Coke. And I thought

— well, it’s sweet, obviously
— there’s acidity
— a caramel flavor
— a burned undertaste
— that chemical note

And I realized I did enjoy drinking Coke. I tried a couple different sodas over the next week, and I discovered I have lost my taste for any of them. I haven’t had a soda in about 20 years. Not saying you should stop, but maybe don’t think too closely about the taste.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:14 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


remember the outrage when beer companies changed their 60s and 70s formulas to more tasteless brews, some of which had the audacity to proclaim themselves light, or lite, even?

hmm, me neither - funny how that worked


Campaign for Real Ale
posted by Chrysostom at 3:18 PM on July 9 [5 favorites]


I'd be interested to try a less sweet version of Coke. Like just put in a quarter as much corn syrup as normal but the same amount of all the other flavorings.
posted by Pyry at 3:22 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I’ve always thought that Coca-Cola’s mistake was in creating a false dilemma—most people (at the time) seemed mad that they were taking away the Coke that they loved, not that they had the temerity to introduce a new product per se.

Seems like they could’ve eaten their cake and had it, too, by introducing New Coke alongside regular old Coke. Keep their current market share and steal some of Pepsi’s.
posted by LooseFilter at 3:34 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


"Hell RC Cola has more flavor than new coke did."

RC Cola has more flavor than classic Coke, Pepsi, and every other pretender to the throne. It's the only cola with a crown for the Queen's sake!
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:35 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


I switched to Dr. Pepper after the New Coke fiasco anyway (though haven't had one for years and years).
posted by Burhanistan at 3:42 PM on July 9


> "I love the 'I don’t care what your data says, I know what I know.' responses in this thread. Coke, Pepsi, RC, whatever. They all taste similarly fine."

I love the "I don't care about the so-called subjectivity of taste, my personal opinions about whether particular sodas taste identical or different and good or bad is inarguably correct" responses in this thread.
posted by kyrademon at 4:39 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]



> "I love the 'I don’t care what your data says, I know what I know.' responses in this thread. Coke, Pepsi, RC, whatever. They all taste similarly fine."

I love the "I don't care about the so-called subjectivity of taste, my personal opinions about whether particular sodas taste identical or different and good or bad is inarguably correct" responses in this thread.


To be fair though... wouln't be much of a thread without these two types of comments. See also: Any food related FPP, movie related FPP, any arts FPP really, umm what else, oh any my generation vs your generation type thread ([insert generation] are KILLING [insert thing] and such.. I could go on.

So yeah... what were y'all expecting? This is what I came here for.
posted by some loser at 5:03 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I think this is the place where I mention my recent descent into the rabbitholes of Glen and Friends taking weeks to perfect different versions of homemade colas.

Fuck big cola, man, make your own.
posted by jeremias at 5:35 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


The story of New Coke has always been fascinating to me, but a weird and almost-as-fascinating side story I only learned about a few months ago was how years later, Coke pulled the same stunt of putting out a product destined to fail—this time, in order to take down Crystal Pepsi.

Today, my fridge is full of Crystal Pepsi, thanks to periodic re-releases of the stuff in Canada. No such luck for Orange Vanilla Coke, which is apparently everywhere in the States but nowhere to be found up here despite a limited test release last summer.
posted by chrominance at 6:38 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


This can't be stressed enough:

Coca-Cola was already being made with corn syrup when it was replaced with New Coke.
Twinkies had already changed from animal shortening to vegetable shortening when Hostess ceased operations.

Seems like they could’ve eaten their cake and had it, too, by introducing New Coke alongside regular old Coke. Keep their current market share and steal some of Pepsi’s.

That defeats the point. Pepsi was on its way to becoming the #1 soft drink. If they had split their own customer base they would have handed that title over to the competition.
posted by dances with hamsters at 7:06 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested to try a less sweet version of Coke. Like just put in a quarter as much corn syrup as normal but the same amount of all the other flavorings.

La Croix has a cola flavored seltzer. It is clear, definitely tastes of cola, and has no sweetner whatever.

My mom bought some because it seemed unusual and thus we had to try it. It was...not well received in my household, but ymmv.
posted by darchildre at 7:27 PM on July 9


My mother wouldn't let me chew gum. So when Hubba Bubba came out with a spearmint version backed with loads of advertising, I bought a pack on the sly, climbed a tree, and put all seven pieces in my mouth at once.

Big bubbles, no troubles.


So I have a suite of recurring nightmares that I seem to rotate through. The usuals like teeth falling out, running in ever thickening molasses, or falling endlessly but the one that really gets me because it is so damn weird and I have never heard anyone else ever mention is my "too much gum" nightmare. I dream that have a whole pack of gum in my mouth. Too much to handle. I can barely chew. But I still try. Then someone tries to talk to me. I am mortified because I can't answer back. I start trying to surreptitiously remove the excess gum but there is too much gum. Endless gum. So much gum. My hands fill up with gum. My pockets fill up with gum. Yet my mouth is still full and I can't even mumble. It doesn't end until I wake up. I haven't chewed anything more than a thin stick of gum in well over 35 years. And yet I am still haunted. I'll probably have this nightmare tonight. Maybe some diet coke will help.
posted by srboisvert at 7:49 PM on July 9 [6 favorites]


Wait a minute...a long Coke thread and no one mentions OK Soda? .... No idea what it tasted like

The vending machine in my college dorm had OK Soda. I loved it. It reminded me of a cross between orange pop & coke and tasted much like the Spezi I liked to drink in Germany.
posted by belladonna at 7:50 PM on July 9


"I can taste the differences in all the colas, but give me a (good) root beer, ginger beer, or best a *birch* beer!"

I love all of these things, but especially a good root beer or birch beer or sarsaparilla. I don't like the lemon-lime sodas, even though I love lemons, limes, lemonade, and limeade, but they're good as mixers.

But I guess I like all of the colas and Dr Pepper (and Mr. Pibb). Run-of-the-mill root beer is okay, but I don't normally drink it. Small bottlers and craft brands of root, birch, and sarsaparilla are really my absolute favorites, but I rarely go to the trouble of seeking them out.

IIRC, all this dates to mid-eighteenth century American small-beer sassafras root beverages, which led to the turn-of-the-century "medicinal" carbonated, carmelized concoctions. They're broadly in the same (complex) taste family and perhaps that's why many people like them but some find them repulsive.

I suppose I like colas sufficiently that I find Coke, Pepsi, and RC, among others, to each be enjoyable on their similar but distinct ways.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:05 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I had friends who, when I visited them in the US, arranged to get Mexican Coke because they knew I wouldn't enjoy the American corn-based variety.

I enjoy the easily debunked conspiracy theories over Coca-Cola's actions in the Cola Wars, because it reminds me that leftists and liberals are just as vulnerable to having opinions based on bullshit. Santa was already typically depicted wearing red and white before Coke adopted him as a mascot, by the way.
posted by Merus at 9:05 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


When New Coke came out, Coca Cola reportedly sold off a number of their vanilla farms in Madagascar. Vanilla is expensive (and corn syrup is cheaper than sugar, at least in the US) so presumably New Coke was much cheaper to make.
posted by eye of newt at 10:11 PM on July 9




although that "secret" military torture camp is still there

Guantanamo Bay is rented from the Cuban government in an agreement that dates back to 1903 and since the overthrow of Batista Cuba has refused to take payment for it, considering the agreement as having been forced on the country.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:12 PM on July 9


Also, the original article is long on spurious assumptions, short on actual data.

Frex, "Coca-Cola was losing market share to Pepsi so New Coke was actually good" doesn't really follow.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:15 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I did enjoy this pun:

It was another act of Northern aggression—a war between the tastes.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:52 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Seems like they could’ve eaten their cake and had it, too, by introducing New Coke alongside regular old Coke. Keep their current market share and steal some of Pepsi’s.

Well, it’s kind of interesting that they sort of one at the long game if increasing the proliferation of sub-brands. The story Malcolm gladwell tells about the six kinds of spaghetti sauce. As the costs of production have fallen, Coke now has all the bizarro flavors and plays around with labeling schemes. The idea that giving people more choices within your brand will capture their attention away from other brands wasn’t exactly wrong. They just didn’t realize what they had figured out since they were stuck in the paradigm of “Coke is one thing.”
posted by Miko at 5:14 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


fyi - Coke does a non-corn syrup run during passover (couple weeks before easter) that should be available in markets with a large jewish population, look for yellow caps.
posted by sammyo at 7:11 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


god i just remembered big league chew

shoutout to Bubble Yum
posted by thelonius at 8:30 AM on July 10


People don't hate change, they hate not having control.

They hate that the Coca Cola company can impose a change on them, if it doesn't match their own preferences. I could see it also become a thing if someone decides Coke is changing for the sake of Those People. (New Yorkers, people who do aerobics and eat green pasta, whatever)

I've also been reading stuff about disco backlash lately. Like, someone can genuinely dislike disco, but the idea that disco is for Those People amplifies the complaints.
posted by RobotHero at 9:00 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


god i just remembered big league chew

shoutout to Bubble Yum


Bubble Yum and Bubblicious were pretty similar, but Big League Chew was in its own league of shitty sugary stuff. It was barely even gum because it lost elasticity so quickly. Fortunately it doesn't seem to be a gateway drug to real chewing tobacco.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:16 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


i used to just eat it like shredded cheese to the extreme horror of all onlookers
posted by poffin boffin at 9:28 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


"Vanilla is expensive"

I believe it's actually the most expensive widely-used spice, much more expensive than saffron, IIRC. As a result, almost all vanilla flavoring uses synthetic vanillin. Which isn't awful, but vanilla bean extract is complex and wonderful.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:40 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


(I also would just swallow Big League Chew once it stopped being gum, about 45 seconds after contact with saliva usually.)
posted by Burhanistan at 10:35 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested to try a less sweet version of Coke. Like just put in a quarter as much corn syrup as normal but the same amount of all the other flavorings.
posted by Pyry at 3:22 PM on July 9 [2 favorites +] [!]


Have you tried Coke Zero Sugar (f/k/a Coke Zero)? I think that's exactly what they were going for: Taste like regular Coke but don't even try for the regular Coke level of sweetness.
posted by whuppy at 11:54 AM on July 10


I concur: New Coke sucked.

An older friend's theory is that the New Coke thing was just a scheme to hide the pea of their switching from cane sugar to corn syrup in Coke. Given that the purpose of American industry seems to be to defraud the consumer, I find this not implausible.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:32 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


An older friend's theory is that the New Coke thing

That widely shared theory has been raised and debunked earlier inthread.
posted by Miko at 4:04 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]



I'd be interested to try a less sweet version of Coke.


This existed! I liked it, but apparently America doesn't really want a less sugary sugar cola.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola_C2
posted by counterfeitfake at 7:44 AM on July 11


Maybe whatever product and flavor your brain associates with the caffeine and sugar delivery it craves is the one you find delicious, and anything different is rejected as substandard until your brain is thoroughly retrained.
posted by rocket88 at 9:13 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


So I guess I should stick to Boylan's Cola, then?

 Like, someone can genuinely dislike disco, but the idea that disco is for Those People amplifies the complaints.

The “disco backlash” was not-even-remotely-veiled homophobia.
posted by scruss at 12:10 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


New Coke was not delicious.
posted by Gwynarra at 3:28 PM on July 11


I guess what I was getting at was people can have their own preferences but that doesn't fuel a backlash on its own. So I can buy the idea of people railing against New Coke as a proxy for whoever they think is the sort of person who would like New Coke. Slightly more healthy they're just railing against Coke executives.
posted by RobotHero at 5:12 PM on July 11


The “disco backlash” was not-even-remotely-veiled homophobia.

Huh, I thought it was racism.
posted by Miko at 5:22 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


The “disco backlash” was not-even-remotely-veiled homophobia.

Huh, I thought it was racism.


A little from Column A, a little from Column B.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:39 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


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