Pepsi brews cola with a Kona-coffee twist

The company is test marketing the unusual drink in Philadelphia

By Russ Lynch

Kona coffee mixed with cola?

It may sound an unlikely combination but it's a taste that Pepsi-Cola Co. is test marketing with a new product called Pepsi Kona.

Pepsi says the combination of its trademark Pepsi flavor with a Kona blend of coffee creates a completely new and different taste experience.

Calling it "a new cola that will defy all expectations," Pepsi launched the new product last week, with an advertising and sampling give-away blitz in one market only, Philadelphia.

For weeks before the launch, Pepsi teased the Philadelphia audience with flashy advertising urging consumers to get ready to "Spank Your Senses" and "Grab Life by the Konas." The company put a sign-bearing Hummer vehicle to work in Philadelphia, using the highly visible military-designed auto as a base for giving away free samples to the public and getting their reaction.

Pepsi said it will soon run a 30-second television spot in the kick-off city, featuring a well-known musical performer. No decision has been made on whether the product will be offered nationally, Pepsi officials said.

Lori Tauber Marcus, senior marketing manager at Pepsi-Cola, said in a news statement that Philadelphia was chosen as a test market because Pepsi has a strong operations and market presence there and it is close to the company's Westchester, N.Y., headquarters.

"In addition it was important to evaluate the popularity of Pepsi Kona outside the well-developed coffee markets of the Northwest," she said.

Brad Shaw, a Pepsi spokesman, said the product uses real coffee and coffee flavoring.

"The coffee we use is a Kona blend, which means it uses coffee from the Kona growing area of Hawaii as well as some other fine coffees from around the world," Shaw said.

Pepsi Kona is not commercially available in Hawaii and there is no word from Pepsi as to whether it will be.

However, a quick and unscientific taste test among Star-Bulletin staffers from a sample six-pack, brought these comments:

Perhaps the best description was one word: "Different."

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