“You can’t change something that’s classic,” seventeen year old Wisoncsin native Mel Cyr told The Wall Street Journal in response to the recent appearance of regular Coke in white cans reminiscent of the brand’s Diet Coke packaging. Coca-Cola’s agreed to bring back the red can we’ve been so conditioned into loving, but there’s still some debate as to whether or not the color is all the company changed. Some seasoned soda drinkers claim the white can Coke tastes, for lack of a better word, “funky.” Coca-Cola claims they didn’t tamper with Coke Classic’s formula, but since when are we supposed to believe a multi-national beverage conglomerate?
I tracked down a few white can Cokes in my neighborhood this morning, and as someone who is more familiar with Coke than most of his relatives I can assure you the soft drink in these cans offers a lighter, less intense flavor of Coca-Cola. It doesn’t taste like Diet Coke, mind you—there’s none of that aspartamy chemical swish. The stuff’s just got less bite than real Coke. It tastes like they upped the sugar and lessened the, uh, whatever it is that makes Coke so bitter. I don’t want to use the “P” word in describing this Yuletide curiosity, but I’d understand if you felt that way after pouring some down your gullet.
Of course, a Coke product that tastes similar to their main competitor harkens back to the 1985 New Coke debacle, an episode regular readers know is one of my obsessions. Is white can Coke leftover New Coke that the company had previously banished to remote Micronesian islands? Is Coke in such dire financial straights that they decided to re-introduce New Coke covertly for the handful of Americans who actually preferred it to Coke Classic? Did somebody make an “uh-oh” at the Coke plant, accidentally whipping up a batch of New Coke for the next two months instead of the regular stuff? Obviously I cannot answer these questions before I take a road trip to Atlanta with a private investigator.
In the meantime, can we get a lobby going to start calling this stuff “Honky Coke?” Is that offensive to people from Newport, Rhode Island? Get back at me on that one, Internet.
Tonight I received my first report from Betsy, the girl in Palau who agreed to investigate the alleged presence of New Coke/Coke II in that region of the world on my behalf. Her initial news is not positive:
“I’ve been looking, but Palau is way way way more advanced than Yap* and it appears that there is no New Coke/Coke II to be found here. If I have any friends traveling to Yap, I’ll be sure to tell them to look. I’m sorry to bear this bad news!”
* = supposed New Coke stronghold.
Goddammit. It stands to reason that if one of Yap’s more civilized neighbors lacks a certain kind of soda, the small Micronesian island itself might also be void of said beverage. Yet the reverse is just as probable—the Republic of Palau is 300 miles outside of Micronesia. Maybe pop distribution is totally different in these two seemingly similar places. Hell, soda variety differs by the block here in Brooklyn. I never really know what I’m going to find if I’m visiting a bodega for the first time. Outside the city? Forget it. It’s a whole different soda world in places like Jersey and Connecticut.
My point is I’m not ready to admit defeat until Betsy or someone else tells me, “Yeah, I went to Yap and there’s nothin’ doin’.” Perhaps a call to the Micronesian Embassy in Manhattan is in order. I don’t know how they could help me, but it would be fun to confuse a few bureaucrats. I also can’t forget American Samoa, where New Coke is also supposedly quite prevalent. Man, I’m going a long way to try and verify the accuracy of one lousy Wikipedia entry.
No, this is more important than that. How often have you heard of a soda being banished to the other side of the world? It’s like Coca-Cola couldn’t just let New Coke go. They had to punish it for failing. If this rumor is true, it proves the people running Coca-Cola are way more insane than we thought they were.
In case you’re just joining the party, here’s a look back at all the blogging I’ve done regarding this story so far:
Readers with any leads pertaining to New Coke are encouraged to speak up in the comment section.