Life

Local preference for tea
puts Coca-Cola in cold
sweat

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

The first attempt by PT Coca-Cola Indonesia was Hi-C.

It failed, without even starting to gain recognition in the market.

The second, Frestea, fared better. Nevertheless, PT Coca-Cola did not get a chance to fight the specter itself -- Teh Botol Sosro. PT Sinar Sosro, the producer of long-established Teh Botol Sosro, did not lose sweat over the challenge; instead, it skewed the direction of the battle, offering Frestea a fresh rival, Fruit Tea.

Teh Botol Sosro has effortlessly continued to conquer the beverage world, gripping around 70 percent of the noncarbonated soft drinks market, say some retail analysts.

Coca-Cola was not the first beverage company that had ever tried to challenge Teh Botol Sosro. Apart from several contending small companies, the first major rival was PT Pepsi Cola.

In 1995, PT Pepsi Cola released bottled-tea Tekita, which contained 300ml of tea, outsizing the 220-ml Sosro. To counter Tekita, Sinar Sosro launched 318-ml Estee.

According to a brand value survey carried out by SWA business magazine and Mars (Marketing Research Specialist) recently, in the noncarbonated soft drinks category Teh Botol Sosro has been sitting pretty on top for three consecutive years.

This year, it scored 356.1, while Fruit Tea (also from Sosro) followed in second place with only 36.6 and Frestea from Coca-Cola in third with 29.6.

While many people elsewhere, particularly in the United States, often claim to be addicted to Coca-Cola, in Indonesia, it's addiction to Teh Botol Sosro.

If brand value is any indication, in Indonesia, Coca-Cola scored a mere 141.6 this year.

Foreigners who visit large cities in Indonesia, particularly Jakarta, will find Indonesians' penchant for Teh Botol a notable characteristic.

A young Malaysian, on a visit to Jakarta, noted this habit. On the website http:\\myindo.com, Farah Mahdzan, writes, ""Teh botol is to Indonesians what teh tarik is to Malaysians and Coca-Cola to Americans ... My Indon (Indonesian) friends always ask me if you can buy teh botol in Malaysia, and they're always shocked to hear that you can't here ... Don't come and live in Malaysia if you're a teh botol lover; can't get that stuff here.""

In several website forums, netters have even compiled polls to vote for the top brand of teh botol. The winner is obvious: Once again, the ever popular, omnipresent (at least in Jakarta), Teh Botol Sosro.

Such forum has sometimes contained messages from people who were staying abroad and claiming to have a craving for Teh Botol Sosro, which was not easy to find in their respective countries.

Some netters in the U.S. said they found Tetra-packaged Teh Botol Sosro in some Chinese stores.

However, some Teh Botol Sosro fans still feel that the glass-bottled version is better.

Devotees say that for the best experience you should sip Teh Botol Sosro with a straw, straight from a bottle that has been fridge-cooled: Don't pour it into a cup and put ice cubes in it.

The concept of drinking cool, black, sweetened tea with a hint of jasmine was invented by an Indonesian family, the Sosrodjojos. They owned PT Sinar Sosro and other companies, including the first, PT Gunung Slamet (GS), which, since the 1950s, has managed tea plantations and a processing plant in Slawi, Central Java.

In 1965, Sosrodjojo's third son, Soetjipto Sosrodjojo, tried to expand the distribution of GS' loose jasmine tea product, Teh Cap Botol, to Jakarta.

With his staff, Soetjipto, traveling in a car equipped with speakers, staged tea demos, with ""tasting promotions"" at public places in Jakarta. They concocted Teh Cap Botol in front of the crowd, and later distributed the tea samples to the public.

However, because it took time to boil the water, crowds got bored and left before the tea was ready. Soetjipto changed the strategy, boiling the water at his office and transporting the freshly made tea in urns.

However, on the way to demo locations, the tea was spilled so later they poured it into washed soy sauce or lemonade bottles. The third attempt was successful and they never looked back.

The promotion technique sparked an idea to package tea in bottles. In 1969/1970, the name Teh Botol Sosro, imprinted on specially-designed bottles, was first introduced.

They changed the bottle design in 1972, and, later in 1974, the family made a historic move: They changed the bottle design into what we see now everywhere and established PT Sinar Sosro.

The company, located in East Jakarta, has to date produced the first glass-bottled tea in Indonesia and, it claims on its website (www.sosro.com), the first of its kind in the world.

It took years for Sosro to cultivate the habit of drinking tea from a bottle, for Indonesians, like people elsewhere, were used to drinking hot tea from cups and ice tea from tall mugs.

Nowadays, many Indonesians have acquired a new habit, just like the words in Sosro's bull's-eye marketing slogan: ""Whatever you eat, you drink Teh Sosro.

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