Coke tar­gets ‘food­ies’ as more peo­ple move away from so­das

This bev­er­age with burg­ers and pizza are now part of US cul­ture

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in New York

What bev­er­age goes best with lob­ster rolls, a bagel sand­wich stuffed with white­fish, or a bowl of ra­men? Coke wants you to think of soda.

Coca-Cola is try­ing to sell more of its flag­ship bev­er­age by suggest­ing the cola can ac­com­pany a wide range of meals, rather than just the fast food and pizza with which it’s a main­stay. It’s why a re­cent TV ad fea­tured a young cou­ple grab­bling mini-Cokes while mak­ing paella, and why food blog­gers were paid to post pho­tos on In­sta­gram of var­i­ous dishes, paired specif­i­cally with glass bot­tles of Coke that might ap­peal to the aes­thetic of “foodie” cul­ture. One photo showed a bowl of chicken chili with the soda.

“The ul­ti­mate com­bi­na­tion of two of my very fa­vorites!” wrote the blog­ger, who has more than 53,000 fol­low­ers. The cap­tion dis­closed that the post, which got about 430 “likes”, was a spon­sored ad.

Al­though Coke has of­ten been mar­keted as a good com­pan­ion for food, the com­pany is try­ing to make sure it isn’t left be­hind as US tastes evolve and peo­ple move away from tra­di­tional so­das. The world’s big­gest bev­er­age maker is par­tic­u­larly try­ing to up­date the drink’s im­age among peo­ple in their 20s and 30s who may as­so­ciate soda mainly with places like McDon­ald’s and Domino’s.

“It’s an Am­a­teur Move to Limit Coca-Cola to Fast-Food,” stated an on­line ad paid for by Coke on Vox Me­dia sites. The post, which was de­signed to read like a news story, talked about fa­mous food pair­ings and how tastes like Coca-Cola “go with ev­ery­thing”. A dig­i­tal video se­ries with Univi­sion also showed peo­ple en­joy­ing Cokes with a va­ri­ety of meals, in­clud­ing sushi.

‘Grossly un­healthy’

An in­ter­nal brief­ing about the cam­paign with Vox said Coke “has long been as­so­ci­ated with ham­burg­ers, hot dogs and other clas­sic US dishes,” but that the fo­cus of the push was “shar­ing Co­caCola with fam­ily over a healthy home-cooked meal”.

The brief­ing said the paid “in­flu­encers” who posted on so­cial me­dia should show dishes that are not “grossly un­healthy or over-in­dul­gent”. In­flu­encers sub­mit­ted ideas for recipes and pho­tos for ap­proval. Among the pic­tures with Coke that made the cut: A poppy seed and chicken salad, steak with salsa verde and a herb-roasted chicken.

The push comes as Coke faces grow­ing com­pe­ti­tion, as well as crit­i­cism over its mar­ket­ing of sug­ary drinks. US sales vol­ume for reg­u­lar Coke is down 14 per­cent over the past decade, ac­cord­ing to the in­dus­try tracker Bev­er­age Digest, while Diet Coke’s vol­ume is down 29 per­cent.

Ali Dibadj, a Bern­stein an­a­lyst, said Coke’s as­so­ci­a­tion with foods like burg­ers and fries con­trib­utes to the drink’s un­healthy im­age.

“If they can break those bounds down and match it up with a Cae­sar salad or quinoa salad, maybe it breaks down the men­tal bar­rier,” Dibadj said.

Peo­ple as­so­ciate Coke with pizza and burg­ers be­cause those pair­ings are now part of US cul­ture, but also be­cause they ac­tu­ally go well to­gether, said John Fis­cher, a pro­fes­sor of wine, bev­er­age and hos­pi­tal­ity at the Culi­nary In­sti­tute of Amer­ica. He dis­agrees with the premise that Coke goes well “with ev­ery­thing”, as the Coke ad con­tends.

“Coke is a fairly pow­er­ful fla­vor it could oblit­er­ate more del­i­cate fla­vors,” Fis­cher said.

Coke is a fairly pow­er­ful fla­vor it could oblit­er­ate more del­i­cate fla­vors.” John Fis­cher, pro­fes­sor of wine, bev­er­age and hos­pi­tal­ity

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