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Discovering Inca Kola in Peru

Updated on June 13, 2013
Iammattdoran profile image

Matt is an avid traveller and self-confessed 'man of the world'. He is passionate about his home city, Manchester, and about travelling.

It was in Bolivia where I first caught sight of this amazing beverage that looks like cartoon nuclear waste. I had no idea what it was so I stuck to my regular choice of drink ie beer or coke. After seeing it sold, and advertised, all around the Lake Titicaca area I decided to try it when I got to Puno on the Peru side of the great lake.

Machu Picchu - the most famous Inca City
Machu Picchu - the most famous Inca City | Source

What is Inca Kola?

I’m still not sure of the best way to answer that question. It’s neon yellow / green and it undoubtedly contains a lot of sugar (there is a diet version but it seems to be as scarce as rain is in the Atacama Desert). I managed to learn a few things about this delicious drink whilst I was in Peru. One of them being that Peru is the country that Inca Kola calls home. Although I saw it several times in Bolivia it’s literally everywhere in Peru. In some restaurants we couldn’t even order water, it was a choice between Cerveza (either Cusquena or Pilsen) or gaseosa (Inca Kola, nothing else). As for the flavour, this is hard to qualify. It doesn't really have a specific flavour it's simply very sweet and sugary.

Little restaurant in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, Peru
Little restaurant in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, Peru | Source

Why not give it a try?

Inca Kola, 2 liter
Inca Kola, 2 liter

Inca Kola Two liter bottle of caffeine-rich Inca Kola soda. (Inka Cola) Inca Kola is an enormously popular drink in Peru. It smells and tastes quite a bit like Bubble Yum bubble gum, and has a sugar content surpassing Mountain Dew. It also possesses that highly valued yellow color.It is an essential part of any trip to Peruvian shores

 

Popularity

It’s not surprising then that Inca Kola is the number one selling soft drink in Peru, ahead of Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Still, the Coca-Cola company don’t mind one bit that they’re fizzy black soda is second in the pecking order. After all, it’s the very same company who produce Inca Kola. I drank loads of this stuff whilst I was in Peru. I was even hoping that maybe I could lead a campaign to convince the Coca-Cola company to import it to the UK. But then sense prevailed. I need to be cutting back on sugary drinks, not picking up the taste for more!

Inca Kola: A Traveller's Tale of Peru
Inca Kola: A Traveller's Tale of Peru

Inca-Kola is the funny, absorbing account of Matthew Parris's fourth trip to Peru, on a bizarre holiday which takes him among bandits, prostitutes, peasants and riots. He and his three companions seem to head into trouble, not away from it, and he describes the troubles, curiosities and wonders they meet with the spell-binding fascination of a traveller relating adventures over the campfire. 'A backpacker's classic: atmospheric, touching, instructive and compulsively readable' The Times

 

History

Apparently the drink was created almost 80 years ago in 1935 by a fellow brit who immigrated to Peru in the early 20th cenury, Joseph Robinson Lindley. The family sold a number of different flavours of sodas under the banner of their company, Corporacion Jose R. Lindley SA in a small neighbourhood in the Peruvian capital, Lima. Inca Kola, the families newest beverage was introduced in 1935 to coincide with the 400th birthday of the city of Lima.

By the middle of the next decade Inca Kola was outselling all other soft drinks throughout the city of Lima and by the mid-seventies it had 38% market share of the soft drinks market throughout the whole of Peru, making it by far the best selling soft drink.

By 1995 however, the mighty international giant had grown so much that it trailed its neon-coloured competitor by only 0.9% in terms of national market share. But, with some clever negotiating and some insightful deals Inca Kola managed to grow its share again when fast-food chains such as Bembos (National chain) and McDonalds started selling it in their restaurants.

Inca Kola: the flavor of Peru
Inca Kola: the flavor of Peru | Source

Eventually however, knowing that they could never compete with the worldwide marketing exposure of the Coca-Cola company the Lindley family, who had owned the Inca Kola brand since it's formation, negotiated a deal with their multi-national rivals who ended up purchasing half of the Inca Kola brand and 20% of the Lindley Family business. At first there was some opposition to this deal it was felt that this locally grown company had now left Peru and become Americanised. This allowed some local and national kola brands to market their soft drinks with a patriotic slant.

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Today

Competition from rival kola brands was soon stifled. Brands such as Pepsi, Kola Real, and Inti Kola are barely seen at all. I've never seen them available in a restaurant or cafe and pretty much all fast food outlets only sell drinks made by the Coca-Cola Company, and Inca Kola.

Together, the Inca Kola brand and the Coca-Cola brands account for 60% of the soft drinks market in Peru. This monopoly is unlikely to be broken for a long time, and with the mighty Coca-Cola marketing machine at the disposal of Inca Kola it's only a matter of time before you see the almost glow in the dark yellow liquid in a store near you.

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    • Rasimo profile image

      Rasimo 3 years ago

      Amazing!