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McDonald’s Tests Pepsi
For more than half a century, McDonald’s has exclusively served Coca-Cola products. Now it’s testing Pepsi. Franchisees hope the tests lead to more sales, but want to maintain a solid partnership with Coca-Cola.

Move over Coca-Cola. Here comes Pepsi.

Since 1955, McDonald’s has exclusively sold Coca-Cola products. But now, McDonald’s is testing non-carbonated Pepsi beverages in Kansas City, Missouri and Texas, says Pepsi spokesperson David Dececco.

In Kansas City stores, McDonald’s customers can purchase bottled Gatorade, Propel Fitness Water, Lipton Iced Tea, and Tropicana Orange Juice. Mountain Dew bottles are being served in select Texas stores. Pepsi and Diet Pepsi are not involved in the test.

“It’s all about offering more choices to consumers, and we hope consumers respond well,” Dececco says.

Coca-Cola isn’t exactly lying down and letting its biggest competitor walk into the world’s largest restaurant. Coke is testing bottles and cans, too, and re-imaging its fountains. And make no doubts about it, Coke officials say, the relationship with McDonald’s is as strong as ever.

“Pepsi is not moving in—that’s a misnomer,” says Ray Crocket, a Coca-Cola spokesperson. “There are some competitive products being tested as bottled cans—that’s it.”

In an Associated Press story, McDonald’s spokesman Bill Whitman confirmed that Coca-Cola is working with the restaurant chain to test different beverage options in a limited number of U.S. outlets.

“We’re encouraged by what we’re hearing from our customers,” the statement said. “However, it’s too early to speculate on test results or specific product offerings.”

Crocket says McDonald’s test stores have installed coolers and are alternating Coke’s bottles and cans, hoping to supplement fountain sales and improve takeout convenience. He says McDonald’s test is similar to the setup at sandwich and pizza shops that offer several bottles and cans.

The pilot program comes at a time when McDonald’s is feeling pressure from growing fast-casual restaurants that serve a wide variety of bottled beverages. In addition, industry analysts say consumers want more variety.

“It’s no longer ‘Coke is it,’” said Morningstar senior analyst Matthew Reilly, in a March 13 Associated Press story. “There’s a heck of a lot of more choices.”

McDonald’s brought Pepsi aboard probably because of Gatorade, wanting to attract the healthy drinkers, says restaurant consultant Linda Lipsky.

“Seven out of 10 of the most-popular energy and sport drinks are owned by Pepsi,” Lipsky says. “Coke is the number-one product. But Powerade, a Coke product, doesn’t even come close to Gatorade.”

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