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Kofola or Šofocola – a close call

KOFOLA, a non-alcoholic cola beverage popular in Slovakia, won a blind taste test against a less-known beverage named Šofocola – but it was a rather narrow escape for the most well-known domestic brand. An advertising expert said the outcome of the taste test showed that brand recognition, rather than a tangible quality like taste, has a significant impact on consumers’ purchasing habits.

KOFOLA, a non-alcoholic cola beverage popular in Slovakia, won a blind taste test against a less-known beverage named Šofocola – but it was a rather narrow escape for the most well-known domestic brand. An advertising expert said the outcome of the taste test showed that brand recognition, rather than a tangible quality like taste, has a significant impact on consumers’ purchasing habits.

The blind taste test, called Kofboj, was held in Slovakia’s 10 largest cities between October 10 and October 23 last year; 11,242 people took part. Of these, 52 percent chose Kofola as the better-tasting beverage. Kofola has dominated the market in Slovakia for many years. Šofocola, which has only 4.5 percent of sales in the market for Kofola-like drinks, was chosen as better-tasting by 37 percent of the participants. The other 11 percent of the tasters could not decide which beverage they liked best, the SITA newswire wrote.

“The results are surprising,” said Karol Wolf from the Dynamic Relations 2000 agency, which initiated the blind taste test. “The dominant brand, Kofola, defended its primacy but in the blind taste test it lost almost one half [of the tasters] in the one-on-one competition with Šofocola, which has a much smaller position in the market. The significant difference between the results of the blind test and the current reality of the market proves that it is not the taste but the brand and [consumer] habits resulting from it that are important in the commercial behaviour of people. Plus, of course, clever and well-targeted promotion.”

Kofola, which has trademark protection, is a cola-like beverage developed in Czechoslovakia in the late 1950s. The fall of the communist regime in 1989 brought a number of cheaper cola-like beverages and what have been called “Kofola fakes” into the market and Kofola lost some of its market share. In early 2000 the Santa Nápoje company bought the trademark, later renamed itself Kofola a.s., and regained much of Kofola’s popularity. The drink is produced in Rajecká Lesná, near Žilina.

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