Inca Kola’s Purple-Cousin Fiasco Revisited

Posted on 06. Dec, 2016 by in peru

Almost two years ago I published La Moradita: Epic Marketing FAIL in Peru about the historically abominable product launch of La Moradita, a chicha-morada flavored soda, by Inca Kola and, by extension, Coca Cola.

The epic failure was quite the head-scratcher for marketing analysts in the region. How could such a serious company make such a blunder? Didn’t they do focus groups and test markets?

If you’re not in Peru, here’s the short version. Chicha morada is a homemade juice. The closest equivalent to it in the U.S. would be lemonade. While lemonade is often sold in bottles and fountains, it’s not as good as homemade lemonade. If lemonade always tasted like it does out of a bottle, it never would have been put in a bottle in the first place because it never would have captured the hearts of Americans, especially in the sweltering southern states.

So Inca Kola’s chicha-morada soda would have been like making a lemonade soda, but in a market which is not as keen on processed foods and pre-prepared beverages. It tasted awful and the company suffered a good bit of cyber-bullying before discontinuing the stuff.

I forgot about it … until I was reminded.

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I’m in the kitchen and I see two beverages on the counter. But they didn’t look exactly like the picture above. The pitcher of chicha was almost empty, as was a personal bottle of Inca Kola Zero. There was so little of each, it wouldn’t be worth it to drink each consecutively. So I mixed them.

And it was great!

It was so good I’ve done it since then. And that made me think … was this was Inca Kola was trying to do?

They bungled it up somewhere on the way, because La Moradita was heavily carbonated and had none of the Inca Kola flavor. This mixture is good precisely because it’s lightly carbonated and has hints of Inca Kola.

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It was so carbonated and so not fresh, they attracted some abuse. See more memes in the old article.

I worked for a large beverage company in Anheuser-Busch for two years. Headquarters was very clear about us promo reps in the bars being their eyes and ears to what consumers are doing. Companies don’t always design products in a top-down fashion for consumers, but often take suggestions to develop products they’re already drinking.

During my time the company launched B to the E, which I thought was great, and inspired by consumers who were mixing Red Bull with beer.

In my last year I worked the off-premise liquor stores in predominantly Mexican-American neighborhoods of Denver, where you couldn’t help but notice how the retailers put the Clamato tomato juice refrigerators right on top of or below Budweiser and Bud Light. The Mexicans mix Clamato and beer to make micheladas, which used to be common in the United States as “red beer” or “bloody beer” a couple generations ago. A few years later, Anheuser-Busch released Budweiser and Bud Light micheladas.

There are too many examples to list, but Cherry Coke and Cherry 7-Up certainly came from bartenders putting grenadine in Sprite to make “kiddie cocktails” and Shirley Temples.

An interesting failure was Coca-Cola Blak, a short-lived mixture of cola and coffee. That may seem strange too, but as a grad student I actually mixed Diet Coke with coffee to power through marathon study sessions.

Chicha morada and Inca Kola tastes great. It’s not clear if it’s viable as a pre-mixed beverage, but it’s clear that the Inca Kola and Coca-Cola people in Peru maybe were not as crazy as initially believed.

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2 Responses to “Inca Kola’s Purple-Cousin Fiasco Revisited”

  1. WW

    17. Dec, 2016

    My oldest daughter and I used to mix Inca Kola and Chicha Morada practically every day from the time she was about 2 years old (2011). I think it was more to act silly than anything else but it all tasted more or less the same: sugary flavored water. We even used to ask the flight attendants to mix it that way whenever we took a trip somewhere. When Inca Kola came out with “La Moradita” my wife was like “they stole your idea!!” but we tried it and it wasn’t that great. After that we pretty much stopped mixing Inca Kola and Chicha Morada at home, as if the fun of it was gone once the big guy had started selling the same concoction.

  2. Colin

    17. Dec, 2016

    Crazy coincidence!

    So you know if you and I were doing it, there must have been many many many Peruvians doing it too. That must be why they tried that Moradita idea, but the final product was completely botched.

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