Cola taste-buds tell the difference

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THE WOMAN on the Sainsbury's checkout was pretty clear: 'It's a bit bitter actually.'

But according to research commissioned by, er, the supermarket chain, seven out of 10 regular cola drinkers said they either could not tell the difference or preferred the shop's Classic Cola, launched yesterday, to their normal cola.

In an attempt to explain the apparent discrepancy, and as a contribution to the debate over whether J Sainsbury could challenge The Real Thing, the Independent conducted its own 'Cola Challenge'. Twenty children aged 11 to 15 who were standing by a bus stop in central London on their way home from school were recruited for a pavement tasting.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola and the new Classic Cola each gained 30 per cent of votes. Five per cent admitted to not being able to tell the difference, while a further 5 per cent plumped for a variety called Geebee, exclusive to Kwik Save.

Many of the boys had strong views against Sainsbury's cola. Thomas O'Neill, 15, said: 'If you drink Sainsbury's, people think 'cheap cola, cheap person'. If you drink Coke it's credit.' Ugar Tuc, 15, said: 'It's crap because it's got Sainsbury's on it. It's just a duplicate and the Classic bit's the worst of all.'

Kitty Warden, 67, shopping in Sainsbury, was more open-minded: 'I'll buy a couple - it's worth a try isn't it. I just bought two and if I like them I'll buy some more on Friday.' Brian Kelly, 67, confessed that he was partial to 'a bit of Pepsi in his brandy'.

Over the next four weeks, the British supermarket chain will sell a two-litre bottle of its Classic Cola for 59p, against pounds 1.05 for the same size Coke. Cans, using similar colours and graphics to the market leader, will retail at 25p - 7p less than Coke.

And just for those who have always wondered what a cola does to a grubby old one penny piece, but were too afraid to find out, the Independent immersed four similarly worn ones in each of the rival drinks.

The good news for Sainsbury is that Classic Cola comfortably beat Coke, restoring a distinctly distressed coin to near mint condition.

(Photograph omitted)