A beloved Coca-Cola soda brand might be dead for good

Soda, at least certain sodas, seem to connect with consumers in ways many products don’t. When someone has a favorite beverage they may drink it multiple times a day.

That’s a behavior that’s generally unique to drinks as if you had your favorite food multiple times each day you would probably become sick of it. But, when it comes to beverages, people happily have multiple Diet Cokes, Sprites, or whatever their favorite soda might be each day.

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A habit like that becomes a bit of a ritual. It’s part of your day the way a morning cup of coffee is for some people. That makes it incredibly painful when Coca-Cola (KO) – Get Free Report, PepsiCo, or any other beverage company cuts a popular flavor.

It may not impact most consumers as companies don’t get rid of flavors that sell well, but to the diehard fans of the brand, it’s a loss felt very deeply. On a national level, Coke’s decision to stop making and selling Tab, its first diet soda, led to a grassroots effort to force the company to bring the beverage back.

Those efforts have received national press because Tab was a very well-known brand that had simply been surpassed by other diet Coca-Cola flavors. Tab, however, is not alone in having grassroots support.

There’s another organized effort to save a popular, albeit less well-known nationally, regional soda brand that was discontinued by Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola has cut its number of soda brands in half.

Coca-Cola

Coke asked to bring back Northern Neck Ginger Ale

While Northern Neck Ginger Ale may not be a name everyone knows but it has a passionate regional following. Some of the soda’s biggest fans led by Stephanie Johnson launched the Save Northern Neck Ginger Ale Facebook Group in 2018 when people began noticing that it had become harder to find the popular ginger ale on store shelves.

That turned out to be a prelude to Coca-Cola ending production of the regionally beloved soda.

Dating back to 1926, Northern Neck Ginger Ale (NNKGA), originally known as “Carver’s Ginger Ale”, was proudly crafted and produced in Montross, Virginia (Westmoreland County). In 2001, Coca-Cola purchased the NNKGA recipe from the Carver family and shifted production to their plant in Sandston, VA.

Citing an aluminum can shortage at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Coca-Cola ceased production of NNKGA in July 2020. In October 2020, the company announced that the discontinuation would become permanent.

The group has lobbied Virginia’s congressional delegation to help bring the drink back and it has a petition on its website. It’s an effort that faces an uphill battle because while Tab had a national, even a global following, Northern Neck Ginger Ale is very much a local tradition. 

“The mission of the Northern Neck Foundation is to promote the preservation of Northern Neck cultural and historical icons, such as Northern Neck Ginger Ale, through stewardship, leadership, and community engagement. The Northern Neck consists of King George, Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland Counties in Virginia,” the group shared.

Coke has made the tough choices

While Northern Neck Ginger Ale would be a prized product for a local company, it’s essentially loose change in the couch to Coca-Cola. That makes it unlikely that the company would bring the ginger ale back, leaving the only hope for the brand being that Coke might be willing to sell it to a local company.

Even that would be an unlikely scenario as it would be hard for a local player to get shelf space or distribute a new version of Northern Neck Ginger Ale.

Coca-Cola has not proven to be a good steward for regional brands because the company operates on such a grand scale.

Northern Neck Ginger Ale was discontinued as part of a broad effort by Coca-Cola to trim its portfolio.

“The company expects to offer a portfolio of approximately 200 master brands, an approximate 50% reduction from the current number, and phase out some products, such as ZICO and Tab,” Coca-Cola said in 2020 a news release.

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