April 20, 2008

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."

USA-brand Inca Kola

"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.

Comments:

The United States

Roosh

May 2nd, 2008

My guess is they use high fructose corn syrup here instead of sugar

The United States

Craig | travelvice.com

May 2nd, 2008

I'm sure the corn syrup has something to do with it, Roosh. Isn't there a big demand for Coke in the U.S. that comes from Mexico because they use real sugar instead of the fancy fructose stuff?

Canada

Jen/YVR

May 2nd, 2008

I've noticed differences with Coke in various countries - I like Canadian Coke better than American (American is far sweeter, with less…flavour), and Mexican and Ecuadorean Coke (out of the glass bottles) is even better. My travelling companions all think I'm nuts. I can't help it if my refined palate is atuned to differences in pop as opposed to red wines…

Funny - you would think a Coke is a Coke….

But American Cherry Coke is the best - the stuff we have up here is junk. When you can find it. It's about the only thing I smuggle across the border when we come back from the States. Well, that and Cocoa Krispies….

The United States

Craig | travelvice.com

May 2nd, 2008

(laughing)!

The United States

incaman

September 3rd, 2009

For the Author of this article, Inca Kola has been produced in the USA long before the Coke acquisition. In fact in was first produced in the US in 1981 in Los Angeles. The formulation today is the same as it was then and is the same as is used in Peru. All soft drinks will vary in taste depending on where they are produced due to different sweeteners ie. Cane sugar vs High fructose corn syrup and the chemical make up of the water ie. chlorine levels, soduim content just to name a few. In the USA Inca Kola is available in 27 states and is growing every year.

Thailand

Craig | travelvice.com

September 3rd, 2009

Incaman, have you ever been to PerĂº? Have you tasted Inca Kola outside the US? Differences in ingredients (cane sugar versus high fructose corn syrup, as you mentioned) clearly impact taste and the regional formula used.

Peruvians, like many Asians, have mouth full of sweet teeth. 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.

What passes for Inca Kola in the US tastes boring and diluted compared to the original.

Canada

John

May 30th, 2010

So true!!! My wife is Peruvian and the family always brought the real Inca Kola for us. This April 2010, we were in Peru for 3 weeks. I did indulge, and drank some every day. Delicious! Today, we found some here in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, (the US version) and sampled a small bottle before ordering a 24 pack. Thank God we tried it first! This non-Peruvian brew is indeed less tasty than the diet Inca Kola and does taste watery. Two thumbs down to Coke for slaughtering a winner!

Peru

Andrea

October 6th, 2010

I am in Peru now, and got online to see if I could indeed get this in the Sates. I am so glad I came across your blog. I will DEFINATLEY smuggle in a few bottles to share with my closest friends at a special occasion.

Thank you!

The United States

sambo

July 24th, 2014

Well, i have also been to Peru recently and tried their latest Inca Kola creation in the country: Inca Kola Zero. I find that i do like the taste about the same as regular Inca Kola. However, being a diabetic, you really cant enjoy regular sodas with the sugar jammed-packed in them.

Anyways, i dont know about where the Inca Kola comes from in the World of Coke Museum in Atlanta, but it tends to taste like the real thing. So, if they do make that in the US, its not really that bad. However, to each their own.

I just wish i could order some without having to go to Amazon.com and pay over $40.00 for 24 cans of the Diet Inca Kola.

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