Pepsi, Coke may go off shelves from Aug.

Leaders of a trade body in Tamil Nadu announced that the ban on sale of Pepsi and Coca-Cola in Tamil Nadu would be effective from August 15. This is not the first time such an announcement has been made. Earlier, in March 2017, a faction of traders made a decision not to sell Coca-Cola and Pepsi and took them off the shelves. The traders had then cited two reasons for taking this decision — health issues and the fact that multinational firms exploit groundwater resources. But within six to seven months, they started stocking these two brands again.

Back on shelves

“We removed these products from our shop initially, but then it became difficult for us to maintain other products in the shop,” said Mani, a shopkeeper in T. Nagar.

He explained that he uses the fridge provided by these two brands for stocking milk, curd, other juice bottles, lemon and mushrooms.

“It was difficult for me. If I don’t stock these brands I would have to give back the infrastructure so I started buying these soft drinks again,” he said.

Mani also pointed out that the Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaippu, during the ban in 2017, said that it would come up with a solution regarding infrastructure but the issue was forgotten. “Consumers have also started asking us for Pepsi and Coca-Cola,” he said.

S. Raja, proprietor of Sri Murugan Departmental Store at Raja Annamalai Puram, said, “ When the ban was in place we stopped purchasing these two brands. But consumers are making demands – so we had to bring them back. But we have reduced the purchase quantity,” he added.

When asked whether they are aware of the ban again in August this year both Mani and Raja said they had no clue.

So how did these brands get into the market despite a ban in 2017? In the middle of 2017, many traders in the State feared that they would have to give up the infrastructure facilities provided by these brands and starting stocking.

Traders said that the incentives doled out by these firms were attractive when compared with home-grown brands. Consumers, on that other hand, were also demanding these soft drinks.

Arasu Dennis, Managing Director of AD Associates, said that intake of these brands reduced post the Jallikattu issue. “But now people are getting back to normal and are consuming both these aerated drinks. At the end of the day, customer decides what he wants.”

Retailer activism

Harish Bijoor, brand-expert and founder of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, said that retailer activism is like a tide. “It comes and goes. MNC colas are normally at the receiving end of it all. It’s about to happen again,” he said.

When contacted, Pepsi spokesperson declined to comment. Coca-Cola did not respond to an email that was sent.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo dominate the soft drinks market in Tamil Nadu. Ball park estimates show that their market share is over 80%.

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