Mr. Cola killed my pop

2020-10-17 — Greg Gaughan

I like pop. I used to drink it every lunchtime. The worst place to buy pop is from a place with a "Coke fridge". My heart sinks when I see one. Everything in there will be from a small, prescribed selection of boring, globalised, bland drinks. The best place to buy pop is from a place with a "free-house" fridge. They're usually a bit shabbier, and are becoming rarer, but promise variety and taste. There could be anything in there: drinks you may not have heard of, as well as flavoursome ones like Irn Bru and Vimto.

For a while I used to go to a Marks and Spencer's (M&S) for lunch and so bought their pop. They have a great selection: ginger beer, cranberry lemonade, orange, cloudy lemonade and cola. Each of these comes in a diet variety which doesn't taste like battery acid like other diet drinks. I'd rotate through the flavours but preferred the cola: it actually had a cola flavour - unlike Coca-Cola which paled in comparison.

Then, around 2016, I'm not sure exactly when, their cola disappeared. Gone. Vanished. The other flavours were still there, but no cola. Weird.

The nice ones - no more cola though

I did notice at the same time that Coke appeared in its place. Marks and Spencer never sold Coke before then. Why would they when they had a better version? If their orange had been replaced by Tango or their ginger beer by Idris for example, that wouldn't have been so bad. But their cola and Coke were polar opposites in flavour: it was the worst one to replace. Obviously I didn't buy the insipid usurper and so cola was gone, but not forgotten, from my lunch rotation.

Cuckoo Coke is now stocked at eye-level and the nice pops, cola-less, are relegated to the bottom shelf

I thought it might be temporary, or just in my region, but no. The good cola had been replaced throughout the UK (or Europe for all I know). Wow. That was some shelf-prioritisation marketing pressure, I thought, but maybe I can still get the good cola from the back of the shop. I asked the staff but no one was aware of the swap. I looked online expecting some kind of campaign on behalf of people up-in-arms about losing their tasty cola, but nothing. And still in 2020 there is no mention of it online. I can barely find a picture of the old M&S cola, let alone an article about its loss.

If I search the M&S website I get:

"We found 0 results for cola, but here's what we found for cool".

So I keep digging over the years, because I really miss the cola flavour and wonder why no one else does, and still nothing. Until today - I find a clue; I make a possible link; an explanation, perhaps.

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