5 Coke vs Pepsi 21st Century Case Study

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REV: JANUARY 27, 2004

DAVID B. YOFFIE

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Cola Wars Continue: Coke and Pepsi in the
Twenty-First Century

For over a century, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola vied for “throat share” of the world’s beverage market. The most intense battles of the cola wars were fought over the $60-billion industry in the United States, where the average American consumed 53 gallons of carbonated soft drinks (CSD) per year. In a “carefully waged competitive struggle,” from 1975 to 1995 both Coke and Pepsi achieved average annual growth of around 10% as both U.S. and worldwide CSD consumption consistently rose. According to Roger Enrico, former CEO of Pepsi-Cola:

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The warfare must be perceived as a continuing battle without blood. Without Coke, Pepsi would have a tough time being an original and lively competitor. The more successful they are, the sharper we have to be. If the Coca-Cola company didn’t exist, we’d pray for someone to invent them. And on the other side of the fence, I’m sure the folks at Coke would say that nothing contributes as much to the present-day success of the Coca-Cola company than . . . Pepsi.1

This cozy relationship was threatened in the late 1990s, however, when U.S. CSD consumption dropped for two consecutive years and worldwide shipments slowed for both Coke and Pepsi. In response, both firms began to modify their bottling, pricing, and brand strategies. They also looked to emerging international markets to fuel growth and broadened their brand portfolios to include non-carbonated beverages like tea, juice, sports drinks, and bottled water.

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As the cola wars continued into the twenty-first century, the cola giants faced new challenges: Could they boost flagging domestic cola sales? Where could they find new revenue streams? Was their era of sustained growth and profitability coming to a close, or was this apparent slowdown just another blip in the course of Coke’s and Pepsi’s enviable performance?

1Roger Enrico, The Other Guy Blinked and Other Dispatches from the Cola Wars (New York: Bantam Books, 1988).

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Research Associate Yusi Wang prepared this case from published sources under the supervision of Professor David B. Yoffie. Parts of this case borrow from previous cases prepared by Professors David Yoffie and Michael Porter. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Copyright © 2002 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.

Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Permissions@hbsp.harvard.edu or 617-783-7860.

Cola Wars Continue: Coke and Pepsi in the Twenty-First Century

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Economics of the U.S. CSD Industry

Americans consumed 23 gallons of CSD annually in 1970 and consumption grew by an average of 3% per year over the next 30 years (see Exhibit 1). This growth was fueled by increasing availability as well as by the introduction and popularity of diet and flavored CSDs. Through the mid-1990s, the real price of CSDs fell, and consumer demand appeared responsive to declining prices.2 Many alternatives to CSDs existed, including beer, milk, coffee, bottled water, juices, tea, powdered drinks, wine, sports drinks, distilled spirits, and tap water. Yet Americans drank more soda than any other beverage. At 60%-70% market share, the cola...
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