Big Soda’s ‘Vinyl Records’ Moment: Coke Gets Back Into Glass Bottles

Photograph by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Bloomberg

When was the last time you drank Coca-Cola in a glass bottle? Not very recently, right? Well, Coke is trying to change that.

This week’s Bloomberg Businessweek cover story explores Coca-Cola’s long, slow sales decline and its attempts to bring people back to its most famous drink. One of the company’s comeback strategies is to start selling soda in smaller bottles and cans. In 2009 it introduced the 7.5-ounce minican of Coca-Cola, which contains fewer than 100 calories, and the company recently started reemphasizing the old-fashioned glass bottle.

That’s nice and all, but how well are those bottles really selling? As it turns out, pretty darn well. According to IRI market data provided by a soft-drink industry insider, sales of glass-bottled Coca-Cola grew 9 percent last year and are up another 19 percent this year. Glass-bottled Pepsi sales jumped even higher, surging 205 percent last year and 47 percent so far this year. Pepsi has much higher percentage numbers because it barely sold anything in glass bottles until recently.

These numbers are particularly telling considering that, on the whole, the soda industry has been in a downward spiral for almost a decade. U.S. soda sales fell another 3 percent last year, the ninth straight year of decline, as people have moved away from soft drinks and toward other beverages. But glass-bottled soda has a retro aesthetic that makes it popular among progressive, foodie-minded customers who otherwise wouldn’t be caught dead slurping something so common.

As good as this sounds for both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, glass bottles are hardly going to be the industry’s saving grace. Sales of glass-bottled Coke and Pepsi last year totaled $123 million and $30 million, respectively, according to IRI data. In fact, glass bottles are sort of like the vinyl records of the soda industry—hip but accounting for less than 1 percent of everything we drink.

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