Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA) (December 2, 2011 5:24 AM)
By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Dec. 02—After flirting with selling Coca-Cola in white cans for the first time in its 125-year history, Coke is seeing red again.
The Atlanta-based company said Thursday it is returning the traditional red Coke cans to shelves in its upcoming run after releasing millions of Coke "white" cans.
The "white" cans are part of the company's partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and was much ballyhooed by Coke when it announced the limited-edition packaging in late October. The "white" cans feature the company's polar bear mascots on a stark white and gray background with Coke's famous red script on the top.
The about face comes after some in the media reported that the white cans were confusing to Diet Coke fans and could potentially be harmful to diabetics who may choose the "white" Coke can thinking it was diet.
Spokeswoman Rand Carpenter said Coke had always planned to use the traditional red cans as part of the "arctic home" campaign, whose purpose is to bring attention to preserving habitats for polar bears, the company's holidays mascot. But the company did not mention its intent to switch to red cans anywhere in the press information announcing the campaign.
The company also said it planned to have about 2 billion cans in the promotion—which runs through the end of February—and that they would be split evenly between red and white. The announcement only mentioned 1.4 billion white cans.
Getting it right is important to Coke because the holidays are one of its strongest sales periods. The updated cans will keep the same polar bear setting, but with a red background.
John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, said Coke probably filled its order of 1.4 billion "white" cans and does not think switching to red will cost the company money.
"Our calculation indicates Coke uses about 706 million cans a month—on average—for brand Coke," he said in an email. "But November and December are high volume months. So if the cans are in the market from early November through the middle of December, they would use well over 1 billion cans."
Carpenter said the company was aware of some reports of health issues associated with people confused by the white cans.
"While we believe the two cans are clearly distinctive so that consumers can easily recognize the differences between our cans, we have made a fact sheet available that highlights the differences on coca-cola.com," she said. "We're working with the medical community to ensure that consumers who have health-related conditions have all the information they need regarding our Coca-Cola and Diet Coke products."
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