Pepsi-CokeA fresh bout that ensued in the Cola drink market in Nigeria between the industry giants; Coca-Cola and Pepsi, in recent weeks has left the former bleeding. Coca-Cola consumers are drifting to its long-time rival, Pepsi, over volume and price differentials.
Coca-Cola served the first salvo when it came out with 35cl serving of Coke in PET bottles at the retail price of N100 which it unveiled with ‘Solo or Bigger Boy’ campaign, giving its consumers a choice between the old 50cl at N150 and a new 35 cl PET bottle at N100.
Almost instantaneously, volume sales of Coca-Cola jumped up expectedly , recovering from an over three year-lull occasioned by the reluctance of hawkers, who are drivers of the on-the-go channel, to stock Coca-Cola products over little profit margin among other factors.. It did for three reasons; affordability, convenience and availability.
With Recession still raging, many Cola drink consumers found it more convenient to part with N100 for a 35cl bottle of their favourite carbonated drink than scour their bags for an extra N20 or N50 to buy a 50cl serving at N120 or N150. In the same breath, it saved hawkers the inconvenience of searching for smaller denominations, and gave them the incentive to bring back Coke the on- the- go channel (eg: traffics and motor-parks.) Some other consumers, especially ladies, found that they could easily tuck the ‘Solo’ bottle into their handbags. .
While the Coca-Cola was still wearing winning smile, Pepsi served it a sucker punch on the jaw with its price reduction campaign, it tagged, “No Shaking, Carry go” launched in Lagos and Ibadan. Pepsi’s new price reduction which offers consumers its 50cl PET bottle 100 got many cola consumers running after it like a swarm of bees at the scent of pollen. With the bite of crushing recession, the pricing tackle is drawing cola drink lovers with a pull too strong to resist at the expense of Coca-Cola.
“Small Coke dey sell well-well that time but now when Pepsi don come they sell N100 for Big bottle. Before na N10. Customers come dey rush back to Pepsi,” a soft drink hawker at Agege Motor park, Lagos who was reluctant to give her name said in Pidgin English.
Her disclosure was corroborated by a Coca-Cola consumer, Christy Akintunde, who disclosed that though she prefers Coke to Pepsi, she now patronises Pepsi more because of price and volume.
“It(Coke Solo) is small and Pepsi is now N100. If I have N100 and I want to take Coke, seeing the quantity and the price compared to Pepsi, I will go for Pepsi,” Akintunde who disclosed she weaned herself of her love for Coke since the days of the Pepsi’s Long throat campaign.’ She added that she has been taking Pepsi almost every day in the last four months.
Since Pepsi went back to its old retail price of N100, some Coca-Cola loyalists have been pressuring their favourite brand to follow suit. Reacting to a digital advertising of #Solo& BiggerBoy on Coca-Cola Official Facebook Page, a die-hard Coca-Cola loyalist, Funke Alayande, said ‘solo’ was too small to fill. Alayande stated: “Na bigger boy ooo! ‘Solo’ is too small can’t quench my thirst for Coca-Cola.”
Another unhappy customer and Facebook user, David Christopher Omoniyi wondered why the company’s products are still stuck to the old price when Naira value has gone up.
His words: “The company increased the price of the brand during the naira crisis (i.e inflation period) now that naira has gained back its ground instead of the company to reverse back to her normal price of sales its however brought “solo”. Omoniyi also raised other some posers that bother on pricing which the account admin parried, stating, “Hello David, thank you for your post and feedback, we always appreciate feedback from our consumer as it helps us to serve you better.”
Assessing the trending price war, a brand expert and the MD, SOA Advertising Limited, Mr Tella Adebiyi, confirmed that Pepsi is eating into the market share of Coca-Cola in the latest battle of the titans.
“Although Coke core loyalists will still go for Coke, Pepsi has stolen enough consumers from Coca-Cola such that they(Coca-Cola) will have problems with their earnings. It took Coca-Cola a lot of investment to come out with the smaller bottle. However, consumers have gotten used to the 50cl servings such that the smaller bottle does not fill them anymore. So, they go for Pepsi which is bigger and more affordable. The way things are in the country at the moment, every spender is conscious of how he spends every kobo.”
Adebiyi added that while two giants would record various degrees of losses, the consumers are the winners in the tug-of-war.
“The saying, ‘When two elephants fight, the grasses suffer,’ does not hold true in this instance. Rather, while the two elephants fight, the consumers are better off. It might not immediately transform into increase in income for Pepsi but in the long run, they will be better for it because of repeated purchases by consumers. On the other hand, Coca-Cola is learning a lesson that because you are big, you cannot always dictate the pace of things.”
The raging price war is the latest in a series in the carbonated soft drink(CSD) market in Nigeria. The last was three years ago, in 2014, when Ajeast Limited, a subsidiary of AJE Group(world fourth largest CSD producers) challenged the seemly established duopoly of Coca-Cola and 7up with the introduction of the “Big Cola”, forcing down prices.”
Coca-Cola and 7up were Lords of the Manor who for over three decades and strutted the industry unchallenged following the failure of local brands like Olo Cola and Dr Pepper in the 80s. Since the entrance of Big Cola, more cola brands such as Bigi Cola by Rite Foods Limited have braved the competitive cola drink market.

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