New Coke on Usenet

First Discussion of New Coke on Usenet from April 26, 1985

Ah how I love trawling through the Usenet archive. Last night I stumbled across a discussion between Gordon Howell, Donald Eastlake and Jay Johannes from way back in April of 1985. This was THE month that New Coke was released and we are seeing the “Internet” reactions to this legendary beverage switch. The original New Coke on Usenet discussion was aptly called Coke isn’t it. Enjoy.

Gordon Howel – Apr 26 1985

Okay…. I’ve endured a lot of abuse in my time, but this is the final straw!

**** They are changing the Coca-Cola formula!!!!!!!!!! ****

Is nothing sacred??!!!
They might as well outlaw the Beatles, or change God’s name, or reinstate prohibition.

For those of you out there who are confirmed cocaholics such as myself, I encourage, nay, INSIST that you call Lucy at (213) 746-5555×4249 to complain about the change.

Tearfully submitted, gordon


Jay Johannes May 2 1985

RE: New COKE formula.

We were discussing this the other evening, and someone came up with an interesting thoery.

Seems that COKE signed a contract in the early 1900s with their original distributors to sell their original formula for a fixed price (a price cap). Since then inflation has really hit hard, and COKE has been actively buying distributors for the last few years to get rid of the contracts, and then reselling the distributorships at terms more lucrative to COKE.

However, if they change the formula, then the agreement no longer applies. COKE can afford to lose market share, and still make larger profits. The only ones who lose are the consumers and the distributors.

Some of this is verifiable, some is pure conjecture. Treat this as net.rumor.

Jay Johannes
Loveland, Colo.

Donald Eastlake May 20 1985

The original Coke distributorships were pretty old style agreements purporting to bind the two parties forever but I don’t think they had anything in there about selling the formula unless Coke went out of business or something.

Listen to the Retroist New Coke Podcast

So that is how the early online world reacted to this titanic shift. Further searches of New Coke on Usenet was pretty much the same stuff.

Retroist New Coke Podcast

Retroist New Coke Podcast

Welcome to the Retroist New Coke Podcast. This week I talk about the soft drink debacle of the mid-1980s, New Coke. I have mixed feelings about this era in history, so I am happy to get to discuss it. After sharing some New Coke memories, I talk about the reasoning behind the switch, the chief architect behind the switch, its failure. And of course, the conspiracy theories it has spawned and a whole lot more.

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Listen and download the Retroist New Coke Podcast

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New Coke

On April 23, 1985 New Coke was Born

It’s the 32nd Anniversary of one of the darkest days in soft drink history. On this day in 1985 Coca-Cola rolled out its sweeter “New Coke” formula. Regarded by many as one of the worst moves in marketing history, the switch was prompted by the surge in consumption of the sweeter tasting Pepsi-Cola. This was huge news back in the mid-eighties with news coverage and magazine cover stories everywhere.

Check out this CBS News story from 1985

I was pretty excited about this release. My family were big Coca-Cola drinkers. The idea that I might be around during the release of a new formulation was astounding. Then I tried it and I thought, this stuff tastes like Pepsi. Although I am a Coke drinker, I don’t hate Pepsi, so I did not freak out like many. However I was sad at the idea of never having the classic formula again.

Listen to the Retroist New Coke Podcast

Coke spared no expense in the roll out, spending millions on advertising, you can see some of those ads in the CBS program. They even enlisted hot TV star/comedian Bill Cosby to hawk this inferior formula. The commercial is pure insincerity, with Cosby sitting in front of a black background, wearing one of his trademark sweaters, telling us how much better the New Coke actually is. Hope you enjoy counting your pieces of silver Bill!

Check out the Bill Cosby New Coke commercial

As we all know New Coke failed and the Coca-Cola Company reintroduced Classic Coke and all was right with the world. New Coke lingered on for a while and was eventually renamed “Coke II”. Eventually that faded as well and according to Coca-Cola Company, Coke II is no longer distributed in the US.


New Coke was a disaster, but it did show that the consuming public had a passion for the original formula and hey we all make mistakes. Right Pepsi?

Note: I actually love Crystal Pepsi. The fact that Pepsi brought it back is proof that others feel the same way.