Inca Kola in the United States
Miami Beach, United States
"YUCK!" I exclaimed after taking a swig of the highlighter-colored soda. "This is disgusting," I said, handing the two-liter bottle over to Tatiana, "You've got to try this."
"AWWUGGH!" she sputtered, after choking down a cautiously conservative mouthful.
I looked at her, and then glared at the bright yellow bottle. "Well, so much for drinking one of the highlights of Peru, outside the country. This stuff is horrible."
Those that have traveled through Peru have likely indulged in one of the national prides of the country: Inca Kola. Though mildly off-putting at first, a downward spiral of availability, price, and sugar content soon find travelers hooked on the stuff. I should know—I was one of them.
Now it's no secret that the Coca-Cola Company now pulls the strings behind Inca Kola, and as a result makes it available in some U.S. markets—Wikipedia sums up the arrangement nicely:
A deal was established in 1999 where Coca-Cola bought 50% of the Inca Kola Corporation and 30% of the Jose R. Lindley Corporation for 300 million dollars, and ceded all bottling rights for Coca-Cola products in Peru to the Lindley Corporation; a joint-venture agreement was forged for foreign markets, whereby Coca-Cola would use its marketing power to push Inca Kola in other countries. To date, Ecuador and the United States (mostly New York and the rest of the Northeast) are two of the countries where Inca Kola is bottled by the Coca-Cola Company.
But what I didn't realize was just how different the taste of the Inca Kola produced and bottled by Coca-Cola in the U.S. would vary from that of the original in Peru. To put it simply: Inca Kola in the United States is a sad, boring, watery knockoff of the real Peruvian stuff.
I remembered when my father recently wrote to me, saying that he'd found a Peruvian restaurant and sampled Inca Kola. He'd known how hooked I was on beverage, and now feel let down that he sampled the uninspiring, odd-tasting U.S. equivalent.
Here in the States, the soda lacks all punch and flavor. Much like selling out their national (soda) pride (and capital city airport) to a foreign investor, it's again no secret that Peruvians (and many other nationalities in Latin America) love their sugar, and super-sweet drinks. 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.
I was pretty much exclusively drinking the new Inca Kola Light when I was in Peru last, and find it particularly pathetic that the diet variety of the soda still retains more taste than the calorie-packed U.S. brand.
(sigh) …So sad.