November 25, 2007

No Pepsi in Peru
Lima, Peru

Peruvians don't drink Pepsi.

I was telling a friend this evening over Skype about drinking a 1.5-liter bottle of Inca Kola Light. I said to him: "It's neon-yellow. I could turn the lights off and still see it in the dark." As far as colors go, you might as well be drinking a slightly more transparent version of the fluid inside highlighters.

Inca Kola

Inca Kola, a product of Peru, is the de facto standard for soft drink consumption in this country. Tasting something like a cross between pineapple, banana, and bubblegum, and I'm often entertained to see a massive 3-liter bottle nearly consumed at the large family lunches here in the Boza home.

A few things have changed in the soda market since I was here a year ago. Coke Zero has entered the scene, and has apparently persuaded Inca Kola into making a "light" version of their product. I like Coke Zero—Cherry Coke Zero is near the top of my most loved soft drink list, but I've only seen that in the USA—and seeing how I'm prone to drink excessive amounts of sweet drinks, I'm enjoying the wide availability of the diet/light soft drinks.

I was telling my friend about how prevalent Inca Kola is in the stores and tiendas, and that you're probably either going to drink Inca or Coke if you want to grab a soda without hunting for something exotic—like Pepsi.

Rare is it that I see Pepsi for sale in Peru. Which is fine with me, as I dislike their favor of cola. Digging a little deeper into cause for such things, I uncovered a great blurb on Wikipedia about the downfall of Pepsi in Peru:

In the 1980s, Pepsi's campaign "Pepsi Challenge" (El Reto Pepsi) backfired and helped to virtually destroy the Pepsi brand in Peru, due in large part to the fact that consumers did not enjoy being told they were wrong. The campaign established tasting centers in and around Lima where people could freely participate in a blind taste test between Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Attendees were presented with two covered bottles and two glasses, each bottle was opened and poured into its respective glass, whereupon the tester was asked to drink each and declare his or her favorite, but not before being asked which brand they preferred and drank regularly.

The campaign proved to be a disaster; three results came from the testing, all detrimental to Pepsi: 1) People were angered by the fact that they were "wrong" in their choice and abandoned Pepsi, switching to either Coca-Cola or Inca Kola; 2) Those who chose Coca-Cola over Pepsi either switched to or stayed with Coca-Cola; 3) Those who were ambivalent between them overcame their ambivalence and aligned with Inca Kola. Additionally, the costs of the Pepsi Challenge, which started to run into the millions of US dollars, coupled with managerial mistakes left CEPSA, the local Pepsi licensee, virtually bankrupt.

A "fact" that has been repeated many times in Lima, yet the only source is a television interview with an employee of a local polling firm, is that over 80% of the people who took the taste test chose Coca-Cola, this being attributed to the fact that Coca-Cola had long since changed the formula for Peru (one of only three countries with that privilege), adding more sweetener to the mix in order to better fit the local palate. As a result of this campaign, Pepsi's market share dropped to a virtually non-existent 3%, and remained as low until Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and other Pepsi properties established themselves in Peru, selling only Pepsi products in their locales.

The mental image of the street scene during the "Pepsi Challenge" makes me laugh.

The Pepsi Challenge in the United States was a serious problem for Coca-Cola. They were consistently losing to Pepsi, and birthed the doomed offspring "New Coke" to combat it. Decades later, I learned that the reason that Pepsi was winning in the sipping-cup taste-test but consistently loosing for the full-can variation of the same challenge was that people prefer a sweet shot of Pepsi, but can't stand to drink an entire can of it. When drinking in quantity, more people regularly prefer Coke over Pepsi.

Comments:

Barbara

November 29th, 2007

Hi Craig!
Just found your blog through another blog, which I found through Digg. Good, interesting writing - great reading. You might like mine, too: http://holeinthedonut.com. Happy travels.
Barbara

andrea b

September 12th, 2008

Inka Kola Light has been around for years (definitely way before Coke Zero). There even used to be 2 versions (light and non-caffeine)…

Italy

max

March 14th, 2011

i prefer "Cupido Drink" is healthy and natural… and i think peruvian should love because it contains peruvian maca but without the bad flavour of maca, a new formula of an italian company, pepsi is great, coke… after i saw on youtube what it can do with a mentos… my god never i will drink!

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