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  • Writer's pictureBen Kitay

Is There Really a Difference in Doing Business with Coke or with Pepsi

Our clients tell us the following.

· Pepsi people are easier to deal with. They speak in plain English. They solve problems without too much bureaucracy. They accept fault for problems and try to quickly solve them.

· Coke people have layers of bureaucracy to deal with. They speak in Coke-speak, not plain English, like robots.

It’s true that Coke people have a script they follow when they talk to customers. But that script makes them very predictable, which, in my line of work, makes it a relatively simple matter to gain leverage in a negotiation. So, I say “keep on robotting”.

· Pepsi lacks a popular competitor to Sprite. That’s a fair criticism. Sprite is a top ten soft drink. Pepsi’s Sierra Mist, around since 1999 is not a share leader.

· Coke really shows up at contract time. Otherwise, not much.

· Ditto for Pepsi.

· When switching from Coke to Pepsi, no change in beverage sales is recorded. Ever. The horror stories are made up by Coke. Plenty of chains compete very well with Pepsi as their soft drink supplier.

· Until recently, all you heard from Coke was how great Freestyle is. No more.

· Pepsi does not push equipment or equipment types. They just want to sell more drinks.

To be fair, Coke has recently realized that Freestyle has a relatively narrow application. It seems they have stopped pushing it on chains where it does not belong. Some evidence of this was the Coke booth at the recent National Restaurant Association show in Chicago. Coke moved Freestyle outside the booth to an adjacent wall instead of featuring it inside the booth.

· Both Coke and Pepsi show up with too many people and too many pages. Clients say it would be better to have conversations instead of every meeting being scripted and played out in a fifty-page deck.

It seems there is not a lot of difference between Coke and Pepsi as far as our clients' experience goes. Both have market share that makes them equally acceptable as an exclusive beverage partner. Both use large decks to script their customer interactions. Both will promise a lot at contract time and deliver little until the next contract negotiation.

Until one or the other start convincing customers that there is real, sustainable, measurable value being added, take the best financial deal.


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