Cokes are it with Washington-area Coca-Cola addicts.
Coca-Cola Classic, the original Coke flavor with the new name, arrived in some local stores last week and is selling out as fast as it can be stocked, one vendor said yesterday.
But Coke, the new Coke flavor with the traditional name, is selling well enough to hold on to its spigot on the soft drink fountains of some major fast-food chains.
"It just blew out of the store," said Lou Schechter, candy and soft-drink buyer for Peoples Drugstores Inc., which began selling Coca-Cola Classic on Thursday. "By Sunday, it was just about sold out."
Peoples estimates that it sold about 30,000 cases, the equivalent of 720,000 individual cans, of Coca-Cola Classic from Thursday through yesterday. The chain, with 150 local stores, expects to sell 55,000 cases, or 1.3 million cans, of the original Coke by the end of this week.
"The customers have been asking for it, and the stores have just been screaming for it," Schechter said of the old flavor, which is being brought back by Coca-Cola Co. following a national uproar over the drink's retirement in April.
Giant Food Inc. began stocking Coca-Cola Classic last Wednesday in some of the chain's 133 Washington-area stores, said company spokeswoman Sue Challis. The new label should be available in most stores by today, said Challis, who added that Giant did not yet have figures on the rate of sales.
The local division of Safeway Stores Inc., however, does not expect to have Coca-Cola Classic until Aug. 26.
Coca-Cola U.S.A., based in Atlanta, said it began shipping the secret formula syrup to regional bottlers several weeks ago. The availability of Coca-Cola Classic in stores will vary with packaging abilities and bottlers' production schedules, the company said.
Both People's and Giant said they could get only two-liter bottles and six-pack cans of Coca-Cola Classic initially.
One local soda fountain supplier said it was unable to say when the original Coke will be available to bars, restaurants and sandwich shops in the area.
Some major vendors are not scrambling for the old Coke. McDonald's, Roy Rogers and Bob's Big Boy are all serving the new Coke and have no plans to switch to the old flavor.
Marriott Corp., the local food and lodging company, "sees no reason to switch" to Coca-Cola Classic in its 500 Roy Rogers and 900 Bob's Big Boy restaurants, said spokesman Robert T. Souers.
"There was no great outcry one way or another," Souers said. "I suppose if a great outcry developed, we would consider changing."
Likewise McDonald's Corp. has been serving the new Coke since it was introduced, "and literally did not receive more than a handful of people commenting one way or another," said Robert L. Keyser III, a corporate spokesman.
"No decision has been made" about whether Coca-Cola Classic should appear in McDonald's-land, Keyser said. But he added, "We've been very pleased with Coke for many years, so why switch?"
One reason fountain vendors may be reluctant to add Coca-Cola Classic is the limited number of spigots on any soft-drink dispenser. Introducing Coca-Cola Classic would mean knocking off Sprite, Diet-Coke, a Fanta flavor or perhaps even Coke. Diet-Coke has already elbowed out Tab on most machines.
Likewise, carry-out stores have a limited amount of shelf space to allocate among products.
Together, these two distributional problems could constrain Coca-Cola Co.'s hopes of increasing overall sales by introducing different versions of Coke to meet different tastes.
Coca-Cola Classic will be fighting for shelf space alongside five other Coke drinks, other Coca-Cola products such as Tab and Sprite, as well as rival soft drinks such as Pepsi, Royal Crown, 7-Up and Dr Pepper.
Peoples plans to provide extra shelf space for Coca-Cola Classic to meet customer demand and used floor-displays to handle the weekend rush, Schechter said.
But Safeway and Giant are taking a wait-and-see approach. Both say that, initially, they will provide no extra shelf space. Coca-Cola Classic will have to find room within the amount allocated to Coca-Cola products by each individual store, a stretch that varies with the size, location and sales history of the store. Both said they may expand Coca-Cola's space if demand warrants.
"They'll have to show us first that the consumers will buy both Cokes," said Ernie Moore, a Safeway spokesman.