Officials at Coke ‘misread’ public attachment to drink
The top three officials of Coca-Cola Co. said Thursday that they are bringing back the recipe that made Coke the world’s most popular soft drink because they “clearly misread” the public’s attachment to it.
They denied that the return of the old formula was prompted by a failure of the 11-week-old new formula or that the return of Coca-Cola Classic was planned all along.
“We’re not that dumb, and we’re not that smart,” Donald Keough, president of Coca-Cola Co., said at the company headquarters with Chairman Roberto C. Goizueta and Coca-Cola USA President Brian Dyson. Around the country, people who bottle and distribute Coke greeted the old formula with a relief, disagreement and cynicism.
“We’ve had quite a lot of concern, a lot of calls at the plant,” said John Kayajan, president of the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Cape Cod, Mass. But Kayajan and other Massachusetts bottlers said the new Coke surpassed the old Coke’s popularity in the state, and Kayajan predicted: Goizueta sips an old Coke.
“The new will prevail here.”
“I think it’s all a publicity stunt on the part of the company,” said Mike Bruzzio, who checks shipments at the bottling plant in Newark, NJ. “They got all that publicity and made the people go cuckoo for Coke.”
“If you want to know the truth, I think they were going to do this from the beginning,” said Bill Roth, Coke’s district sales manager in Newark. The old formula for Coke, which remained fundamentally unchanged for 99 years, was replaced in April with a taste the company said was “smoother, bolder and rounder.”
But cola drinkers rebelled. Groups formed to lobby for the return of the old formula, and Coke received thousands of telephone calls and letters.
On Monday, Coke’s leaders decided to market the old formula again, and the decision was announced Wednesday.
“Our company attained the position it enjoys by watching consumers, listening to consumers and giving consumers what they want,” Goizueta said. Dyson said the best product the company can make will continue to be sold under the Coca-Cola label. Coke Classic — like diet Coke, Cherry Coke, caffeine-free diet Coke and caffeine-free Coke — will be a product extension.