I worked for Quaker Oats in the late 1990s; shortly after I left, they were bought by PepsiCo, as the culmination of a protracted bidding war between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo for the company. Coke and Pepsi specifically wanted Quaker in order to get Gatorade (which, at that point, was posting double-digit annual sales growth, and was essentially a license to print money).
The conventional wisdom at the time was that PepsiCo would keep Gatorade, and quickly spin off Quaker’s food divisions (which were primarily breakfast cereals). But, as it turned out, they kept the Quaker food lines (and still have them today) – before buying Quaker, PepsiCo’s food portfolio was largely Frito-Lay, and PepsiCo felt that having some “better for you” food brands under their umbrella would improve their image (which was, up until then, largely as purveyors of junk food), and put them more “on trend” for offering healthier options.
I’m always amused when people who prefer Coke often feel they need to say they can tell the difference as if the rest of us can’t. It’s not that the rest of us can’t; it’s that most of us don”t really care. Even someone who prefers Pepsi will drink a lot of Coke simply because Pepsi is usually not available where they dine.
I usually add that due to my experience with discussions of the difference between regular sodas and diet sodas. I have had many people tell me with a straight face that they can’t distinguish between Coke and Diet Coke. The only conclusion I can draw is that those people have taste buds that lack some kind of receptor. To me the taste between the two is immediately obvious. The difference between Coke and Pepsi isn’t quit as obvious, but is still noticeable.
It’s somewhat of an exaggeration, but this is the analogy I use. If Coke = strawberry cake, then Pepsi = chocolate cake, and Diet Coke = mushy steamed broccoli.
I don’t storm out, of course, but if I order a Coke and they only have Pepsi, I just won’t have a cola. I mean, I shouldn’t be drinking sugary soft drinks anyway, so if they don’t have the one I like, it’s that much easier to be smart and just not get one at all.
I’ve heard two things about the New Coke debacle that I’m still not sure of the truth of.
First, I’ve heard that a standard clause of Coke’s exclusive contract with big vendors allowed them to renegotiate if coke ever failed to be the best selling cola- a nice sounding but meaningless feature when coke was unchallenged. When Coke’s market research showed that the Pepsi challenge was honest and Pepsi did win blind taste tests, they feared a cascading exodus, and panicked.
Second, Malcom Gladwell claims that while New Coke did beat Pepsi in blind taste tests, the tests were flawed because the test subjects were only given a single small glass. Supposedly when New Coke was drunk in larger quantities, the increased sweetness became cloying and unpleasant.
Pepsi is sweet, flat, and cheap. It’s best drunk in the middle of the night in August, standing in front of a fan in the kitchenette of your double-wide, washing down a rolled up slice of baloney in mustard…I have a friend with bonafide white trashy roots who will order Pepsi, in a restaurant, gulp down a huge glass, and immediately order another one. to each their own.
I don’t know about the contracts, but I do recall that it was Very Important to have the number one distinction for your beverage only at the time. That’s why Coke, instead of just adding New Coke to their line to offer customers an additional choice, abandoned the old formula so that “Coke” could be number one.
In other words, it wouldn’t be enough if the sales of Classic Coke and New Coke combined blew Pepsi out of the water. If Pepsi beat Classic and New Coke individually then it could claim number one status which would have been disastrous for, well, reasons…
I guess it was just a different time in which you didn’t have hundreds of choices at a convenience store, you had about ten.