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Challenging Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola to showcase new drink during Super Bowl

December 16, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ In a multimillion-dollar gamble, the Coca-Cola Co. plans to come out with a new product to compete with Mountain Dew, a high-caffeine citrus soda that has become a big money-maker for Pepsico.

The new soda, called Surge, will make its television debut during the Super Bowl, the Atlanta-based soft drink giant said today. The ads will be aimed at the hordes of teen-agers and young adults who have helped make Mountain Dew the top-selling beverage of its kind.

``Mountain Dew has been a tremendous source of profit for Pepsi and it has had virtually no competition,″ John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest, told The New York Times for today’s editions.

Mountain Dew had sales of $3 billion last year.

``For years, Coke bottlers have been saying, `We need something to compete with Mountain Dew,‴ Sicher said. ``Now the Coca-Cola Company has responded.″

The green citrus drink will be high in calories and caffeine like Mountain Dew, which dominates the heavy-citrus soda market and vastly outsells Coca-Cola’s similar Mello Yello.

``Surge’s enormous appeal to young consumers will make it a valuable addition to our brand portfolio,″ said Henry Schimberg, chief executive of Coca-Cola Enterprises, the company’s largest bottler.

The move marks Atlanta-based Coca-Cola’s biggest gamble on a soda brand since its decision in 1985 to replace the Coca-Cola formula with New Coke, a flop that cost the company $35 million.

The new product has been test-marketed in Norway for eight months under the name Urge and is sold there in five flavors _ Valencia orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit and tangerine.

In the United States, Surge will be a blend of citrus flavors. The 12-ounce cans will have wide mouths, a first for a Coca-Cola product. Coca-Cola said it is ready to spend $50 million on its marketing campaign.

Pepsico said it was ready for the competition.

``A wide array of wannabes have failed to put a dent in Dew,″ Pepsico spokesman Brad Shaw told the Times. ``Its authenticity has been cultivated over decades.″

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