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Pepsi Hits New Coke Overseas; Coke Accuses Pepsi Of Changing Formula

August 20, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ Pepsi-Cola opened a new front in the cola wars Tuesday, attempting to pre- empt its archrival by ″introducing″ new formula Coca-Cola to the world well ahead of Coke’s official overseas launch.

At the same time, Coca-Cola launched a salvo of its own, charging its chief competitor with selling a ″New Pepsi,″ a less-sweet version of Pepsi-Cola, in some overseas markets.

Pepsi’s 16-city media blitz was aimed at capitalizing on adverse reactions to Coke’s new formula. But Coke reacted with disdain, saying its product was still No. 1 in the world.

″The new Coke is about to roll out worldwide, and we at Pepsi could not be happier,″ Peter Kendall, Pepsi’s regional vice president for northern Europe, said in London at one of 16 test-tasting news conferences in cities across the globe. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Randy Donaldson, Coca-Cola’s manager of public relations services, charged that a ″New Pepsi″ is currently on the market in southern Japan and ″is a totally different formula from regular Pepsi.″

″What is amazing is that this product is on the market, clearly identified as ‘new,’ at a time when representatives of Pepsi said it is something they would never do,″ Donaldson said.

″Pepsi took out ads in newspapers identifying Pepsi as the taste too good to change, yet this is on the market, and it’s a completely different formula,″ he said.

Coke officials ″are certain it is on the market in Japan now,″ he added.

Dick Detwiler, a Pepsi public relations spokesman at the company’s Purchase, N.Y., headquarters, said that what Coke claims is ″New Pepsi″ is actually a ″long dead″ product that had ″a very limited test marketing in one city in Japan ... a couple of years ago.″

″It’s certainly not available now, I know that,″ Detwiler said. ″It’s a local lemon (flavor cola) product ... certainly never intended to replace our flagship brand.″

Pepsi has no plans - ″none whatsoever″ - to change its formula and has ″absolutely″ no plans to bring back the ″lemon product,″ he stressed.

The latest skirmishes between the cola giants come three months after Pepsi taunted Coke for changing the Coca-Cola formula after 99 years of success.

The world’s No. 2 soft drink maker claims its sales in the United States jumped an unprecedented 14 percent in May and June after Coca-Cola introduced its new, sweeter product to Americans.

By early July, after a deluge of complaints from irate imbibers, Coca-Cola decided to bring back its fabled 99-year-old formula 7X that made Coke the No. 1 soft drink worldwide. But it is keeping the new concoction on the U.S. and overseas market.

Coca-Cola officials professed to be slightly puzzled by Pepsi-Cola’s initiative. Olivier Bermon, a Coca-Cola spokesman in Paris, said it was kind of Pepsi to take care of Coca-Cola’s publicity.

The new formula is already on sale in Canada and Puerto Rico and a Coke spokeswoman in London, Shirley Soskin, claimed its popularity was undiminished. Coca-Cola expects to complete its official launch throughout its 148-nation market in 16 months, she said.

In London, about 50 reporters were offered a taste of the new Coke, imported from Canada, and asked to compare it with Pepsi. Many seemed unable to tell the difference.

In Paris, asked how any Frenchman could prefer Pepsi to Beaujolais wine, Eric Saare, president of Pepsi-Cola France, recommended wine with meals and Pepsi for thirst.

Saare declared a ″a new phase of the war was taking place.″

″For us, Pepsi is a small competitor,″ countered Coke’s Bermon. In France alone, 54.6 million gallons of Coke were sold last year compared to only 7.8 million gallons of Pepsi, he claimed.

In the $25 billion world market, Coke claims to outsell Pepsi 4-to-1. Pepsi claims it’s 3-to-2 and says Pepsi is the biggest seller in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and parts of South America.

″In Western Europe, we’re weaker. They outsell us by 2 or 3 to 1,″ Nestor Carbonell, vice president of Pepsi-Cola International, told the AP in London. ″But we are eroding their dominant share.″

The news conferences were held here and in France, Austria, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Holland, Brazil, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Morroco, South Korea, Australia and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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