Have a Coke and a KS Smile

Did you know Kansas played a part in the cola wars?

It was the early 80’s.  The overall market for colas was declining as diet pop started trending. The bosses at Coca-Cola were losing the “Pepsi Challenge” as people preferred the sweeter Pepsi to Coke.

So the Coca-Cola executives started a secret project to create a new flavor for Coke. The 4-year long process was called “Project Kansas.”  It was a tribute of sorts to a famous photo of William Allen White drinking a Coke.  White once described Coke as “a sublimated essence of all that America stands for . . . a decent thing, honestly made, universally distributed, conscientiously improved with the years.”

The photograph appeared in an issue of Life Magazine in 1938. 

The new sweeter cola beat both regular Coke and Pepsi in taste test

In 1985, New Coke was introduced and originally received good reviews. As the roll out spread to the South, the backlash started.

79 days later, on July 11th, Peter Jennings interrupted General Hospital to announce the return of Classic Coca-Cola.

The new version was renamed Coke, then in 1992, it was renamed Coke II.  The original was referred to as “Coca-Cola Classic.”  In July 2002, Coca-Cola announced that Coke II would be discontinued entirely.  In 2009, Coca-Cola permanently removed “Classic” from its packaging.

Sergio Zyman, then vice president of marketing for Coca-Cola, once said,  “Still, New Coke was a success because it revitalized the brand and reattached the public to Coke.”

Another interesting Kansas connection to Coca-Cola was Leavenworth native, Hilda Clark. Clark was the first woman to be featured in a Coke ad, and she was the “face” of Coca-Cola from 1895 to 1903. She retired from modeling when she married, Frederick Flower, the nephew of NY Gov. Roswell Flower. Clark died in 1932 in Miami Beach.

My mom was a Coca-Cola fan.  If it did not come in the glass bottle, don’t bother.  She collected Coke stuff for years.  The first Christmas after mom passed away, I started a new tradition.  After the prayer but before we eat, we toast mom with Coca-Cola in an ice cold bottle.  Here’s to you mom!

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