National newspaper China Daily ran a story last Tuesday citing results from a survey conducted by not-for-profit the China Association for Quality.
Coca-Cola received the lowest score among 12 prominent soft drinks brands sold in China, slipping down from a sixth place finish in the same survey in 2010.
Domestic brands Jiaduobao and Wahaha (water and herbal tea specialists) topped the list, and the paper linked Coke’s lowly finish to worries about product quality.
The paper picked out fears relating to chlorine contamination that arose in April; Coca-Cola Shanxi Beverages Company admitted happened at its plant in February.
Mistakes during pipe refitting at the plant meant water tainted with low levels of chlorine contaminated nine batches of drinks: around 120,000 cases.
A valve separating the beverage processing water pipe and the daily use water pipe was opened by mistake; the error cost the plant manager his job.
On May 7 Coca-Cola Shanxi apologized to Chinese authorities, media and the public, after the Shanxi Provincial Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision ordered the plant to halt production pending corrective measures.
China Daily also pointed to the results of tests conducted by the US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in March, alleging unsafe levels of caramel coloring 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) in US Coke and Pepsi.
Coke points to growth
But Coca-Cola media relations director, Petro Kacur told BeverageDaily.com: “Our fans’ affection for our beverages is…reflected in The Coca-Cola Company’s double-digit growth in nine out of the last 10 years in China.
“Our first priority is ensuring the safety and quality of our products while continuing to keep the connection people have with our brands relevant and vibrant,” he added.
As stewards of the world’s most valuable beverage brand portfolio, Coke listened carefully to views people had about its products, Kacur said.
He pointed to independent research conducted by research agency Millward Brown in June 2012 on leading beverage brands within the Chinese market.
Among the top 25 brands, Coca-Cola came top in categories such as ‘a brand I love’, ‘a brand I trust’, and ‘is the most favorite non-alcoholic ready-to-drink brand’.
Kacur also drew our attention to a China Daily story from August 23, reporting the results of a survey published in Staffers, a magazine of China Business Journal.
This showed that Sprite and Coca-Cola were the two beverage brands most favored by Chinese college students; 18.9% of 6,000 canvassed voted for Sprite.