Coca-Cola to launch smallest plastic soda bottle


Coke East Africa general manager, Peter Njonjo. PHOTO | COURTESY

Soft drinks maker Coca-Cola is set to introduce its smallest takeaway plastic soda bottle locally, stepping up the market share turf war with rival Pepsi.

Coca-Cola says it will next week begin distributing its 350-milliliter plastic soda bottle. The soda maker currently sells only the 500ml variety in plastic bottles.

PepsiCo early last year started local production in the country, raising competition for soft drinks customers and sparking off a turf war with Coca-Cola.

“We began producing the 350ml PET bottle last week and you should begin seeing the brand in shops by mid-December,” said Peter Njonjo, the general manager of Coca Cola East Africa.

Mr Njonjo, who was speaking to Business Daily at his office said the new bottle will be referred to as Ka-Shorty, a colloquial description for its small stature.

Near monopoly

Coca-Cola, which has for decades enjoyed a near-monopoly in the Kenyan soft drinks market, says the 350ml plastic bottles will be produced and distributed solely from its Kisumu bottling plant.

The soft drinks firm has invested Sh1 billion in the new factory which is also being commissioned this month.

The introduction of the 350ml bottle will see Kenya’s Coca Cola business mirror that of Uganda and Zimbabwe, which launched the same bottle size last year.

“The smaller bottle aims to provide options to our consumers like university students who may not have too much to spend, but still want to buy our products and enjoy them on the go,” said Mr Njonjo.

He did not reveal the retail price of the new product, but in Uganda the drink goes for an equivalent of Sh50 a bottle. In Kenya, the 500ml plastic soda bottle retails for about Sh60 in most supermarkets.

The new plastic bottle version comes just two years after Coca-Cola introduced a 200 millilitre (ml) glass bottle, adding to its common 300ml drink.

The glass bottle launch came months before PepsiCo opened its Sh2.4 billion bottling plant at Ruaraka.

The global soft drinks maker later began selling its Pepsi-Cola, 7UP and Mirinda brands in 350ml returnable glass bottles— the same price that Coca-Cola was retailing its 300ml brands, sparking off a price war.

PepsiCo is the only company that is seen to pose real competition to Coca-Cola due to its financial muscle.

Coca-Cola responded to its rival’s entry by announcing an investment of Sh2.6 billion in extra production capacity, which was to be spread over three years.

The Kisumu bottling line producing the new 350ml plastic bottles is part of this venture.