The Cola Wars
So Pepsi fired the first salvo in the Cola Wars by announcing, the day after (US) sanctions were lifted, that it would be manufacturing and distributing in Myanmar asap. There are now rather disturbingly large billboards around town featuring some guy called Messi who apparently drinks Pepsi. This does not make me want to buy or drink Pepsi but I am not the target market, so fair enough.
Coca Cola, somewhat slower off the mark, are now wading in with the big guns and promising just as much, if not more, than Pepsi on the whole manufacture/distribution front.
Myanmar, in case you weren’t aware, is one of only 3 countries in the world yet to bend its knee to the cola empires; the other two being North Korea and Cuba.
This would all be terribly exciting of course, except for the fact that coke has always been available here. Coca Cola (including Light and very occasionally Zero) is imported from Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. Some say illegally though what they really mean is that they are imported from retailers rather than the corporation itself. Although the cans look the same they do vary in price, so you have to be careful which one you pick off the shelves at City Mart (Malay Coca Cola is very expensive, maybe because it is halal). They all taste the same of course.
The local brew, Star Cola, is about a quarter of the price and also widely available. They took over the abandoned Pepsi plant, when they hightailed it out of the country in the 90’s, and are using the same bottles, ink, printing and in all likelihood recipe too. It certainly tastes the same to me.
There was apparently some concern that either of the Cola giants may instigate their ‘killing price’ strategy whereby they price their own products so low (affording, as they are able, to run at a loss) that they in effect kill any local competition. It seems unlikely however, as there is a thriving soft drinks industry here which is very low priced already.
Interestingly, I heard from a bar owner that Pepsi work closely with Pizza Hut and KFC and where the cola giant goes, the fast food chains follow. If Coca Cola wins the war? Then we get McDonalds and Burger King. Oh, like, great. Come back in a couple of years and see where we’re at.