Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Fashion fans may find themselves sipping cola instead of champagne at parties during the next Paris Fashion Week, which runs from Feb. 25 to March 5. But it won’t be just any cola as the French capital now has its own caramel-flavoured drink, called – what else – Paris Cola.

The company behind the product, Fonbelle, is a sponsor of Fashion Week and has been heightening its profile recently as it tries to push ahead of other cola contenders and also appeal to civic pride.

Rousseau shows off Paris Cola
“The main thing about Paris Cola is that it’s a local product, made with Parisian water and with locally produced beet sugar,” says Pollyanna Rousseau, Fonbelle’s marketing manager.

The company first developed the product in 2007, but it was only last year that Paris Cola became a viable commercial drink, competing with both international brands as well as a similarly named local beverage.

This year, it has launched a major offensive, with public demonstrations and free tastings in upscale Parisian supermarkets such as the Grande Epicerie.

Rousseau says she wants to position the cola as a drink one wouldn’t feel embarrassed to offer to a dinner hostess, much like a good bottle of wine.

It took eight months to create the right taste, she says, with studies conducted among consumers to make sure the drink wasn’t “too sugary, too caramel or too strong”.

“We wanted the perfect taste for a Parisian, and that was quite difficult,” she adds. “You had to forget about other products and find the taste that you would like to have as a French cola.”

If it's red it must be cola.
After the public testing, the company designed flashy bottles in glass and plastic for retail in French supermarkets such as Auchan and Carrefour, with the product now being available in more than 300 outlets.

“We targeted two kinds of consumers - first young Parisians between the age of 20 and 35 who are willing to try new things, and secondly the tourist market,” Rousseau says.

Fonbelle has long been active in the food-souvenir sector, and the idea is for travellers to have an unusual memento to take back home. The cola, for instance, is sold in glass bottles at stores that tourists frequent, such as the ever-crowded Galeries Lafayette.

The bottle, with a red label, is a deliberate design as consumers seem to identify the colour with colas, perhaps because of a famous international brand.

“When people ask why we’re using red, we explain that the Parisian flag is red,” says Rousseau. “So it makes sense.”

The label also bears images of the Eiffel Tower and two stylish Parisians – a young woman in the iconic “little black dress” and a slender man with an elegant silhouette.

This is meant to evoke the stylishness associated with haute couture and other luxuries, one of the reasons for the link with Fashion Week. Who knows, perhaps consumers will start calling the drink Paris Cola-Champagne. - L. McKenzie & J.M. De Clercq