Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ice-Cold Coke? Not in China

According to this Wall Street Journal article, the Olympic games aren't the only intense competition taking place in China. Coke (22%) is just a step behind Pepsi (22.9%) in the fight for soft-drink market share in China.

As Coke tries to eliminate Pepsi's edge, one of the obstacles Coke faces might surprise you -- it sure surprised me. According to the WSJ article:

Ice bins filled with Cokes dotted [China's Olympic] torch route, and the company also gave away samples in shops nearby.

The torch route gave the company a chance to tackle a cultural issue with its cornerstone beverage: how to best drink the soda. Chinese consumers, including many of Coke's own bottling and distribution staffers, don't sip theirs cold.

Chinese medicine preaches that warm drinks are better for the body. But Coke executives have always maintained that a higher temperature detracts from the drinking experience, since warm colas don't deliver the same pop, or "mouthfeel," from carbonation.

Changing local tastes is tough to do.

Stopping by a free-sample station in a Dalian Wal-Mart, 30-year-old Wang Wei said he "cannot drink cold Coca-Cola; it's not good for my stomach." While Hui gulped her icy Coke at Beijing's Shuang Zone, several other people around her waited for their bottles to warm up first.

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