Coca-Colas mixed with cherry syrup for years were as much a part of the courtship ritual as convertibles, sock hops and holding hands. Yet the bottling company has never marketed its own version of the fountain concoction. Now it has made a better-late-than-never decision to put cherry Coke in bottles and cans, in its first flavored variation of the soft drink. When the company measured the popularity of several cola mixtures at the 1982 Knoxville World's Fair, cherry was more popular than lemon-, lime- and vanilla-flavored Cokes. Nonetheless, Coca-Cola will continue test-marketing the new soft drink in three other communities for six months before beginning to sell the beverage nationwide.
Cherry Coke is the latest salvo in a tough marketing war among soft-drink makers. The new flavor could put a crimp in sales of Dr Pepper, which has a slight cherry flavor. Coca-Cola's current Pepper-type offering, called Mr. Pibb, has done poorly. This time the company hopes to ensure its new product's success by using the Coke label. It learned the magic of that name in 1983, when its diet Coke became an instant hit.