Perhaps one of the darkest days in soft drink history occurred on April 23, 1985, when a true American icon was altered beyond all recognition. Yes, this is the day that Coca-cola announced to the world that it was changing its formula. And for traditionalists, it’s a day that will live in infamy.
Why you may ask, would the company tamper with one of the most recognized and beloved products in the world? The simple answer is…paranoia. Pepsi was gaining a bigger share of the market and the execs at Coca-Cola got nervous. Thinking that the public would prefer a sweeter soft drink, they replaced good ol’ sucrose with high fructose corn syrup and rolled out New Coke. Beloved television personality Bill Cosby was recruited to introduce a somewhat skeptical public to the “improved” product.
To the portion of the populace who always preferred the sweeter taste of Pepsi, New Coke was right up their alley, or would have been, were they not already Pepsi drinkers. Millions, of course, lined up to sample the new flavor but not everyone was celebratory.
For the many diehard Coke fans out there, this was nothing short of blasphemy and they were livid, especially Southerners, who took great pride in their homegrown soft drink. Negative responses came from everyone from the Chicago Tribune to Fidel Castro, who called the new drink “a sign of American capitalist decadence.” Meanwhile, the folks over at Pepsi couldn’t have been happier.
Within three months, the company realized it had made a serious error in judgment, and on July 10, 1985, they announced the return of the original formula, which would be known as “Coca-Cola Classic.” The only problem was, it really wasn’t the original formula, as the high fructose corn syrup remained in place of sugar, but was dialed back a notch to reduce the sweetness and make the product closer to how people remembered it.
Today, if you want a better idea of what Coca-Cola originally tasted like, you only need to hunt down one of those glass bottles of Coke from Mexico. They still use sucrose south of the border, and one sip will greet you like an old friend, transporting you back in time to the glory days of Coca-Cola. Hopefully, with the recent popularity of “throwback” sodas from Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and others, Coke will eventually jump on the bandwagon and once again treat us to a sugared version of their soft drink. When that day comes, Coca-Cola can once again call itself “The Real Thing.”
And just for fun, here is Dan Rather giving the world the news that Coke is changing:
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