The soft-drink major has got back to us. In an email received by us today, Coca-Cola clarifies: “The outlet has no Coca-Cola 200 ml stock of 20 March 2010 in the store. Other filled stocks and empty bottles present in the store are of different manufacturing dates. Therefore, the possibility of any spurious products getting into the outlet is being investigated. We have on occasion received complaints of spurious and counterfeit products, and have in the past sought support from police and other law-enforcing authorities to unearth such rackets. What compounds our ability to accurately conduct a product and package integrity investigation in our laboratory is that the package in the given case is open and empty."
Coke has gone on to describe its state-of-the-art manufacturing machinery and has invited Moneylife to inspect its facilities at Wada, near Mumbai.
All through, our intention has not been to malign the reputation of the manufacturer. The points that Coke makes in its letter are well taken. However, we would hasten to add that control on the entire supply-chain mechanism is a responsibility that lies squarely on Coca-Cola's shoulders. There is no point in manufacturing a quality product if there are leakages in the last-mile connectivity.
Again, caveat emptor cannot be applied in this case, as you cannot expect a customer to inspect a bottle before consuming the contents.
Whether the product is spurious or otherwise, the jury is out on this one. — Aaron Rodrigues