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    Mid-Calorie Colas Off to a Flat Start

    Retailer survey results reflect widespread skepticism of concept.

    ATLANTA -- New research shows that only a couple of months into their inception, the two major brands of mid-calorie colas -- Coca-Cola C2 and Pepsi Edge -- are getting a lukewarm response in stores, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    A report Wednesday by Legg Mason analyst Mark Swartzberg concluded that C2 and Edge "are either slow builds or something closer to dead on arrival."

    Swartzberg based his opinion on a survey of 51 U.S. retailers. "No one with whom we spoke says the products are selling briskly, with responses evenly split between selling 'not at all' and 'a little,'" he said. While Swartzberg noted that the findings are "hardly conclusive," they do reflect fairly widespread skepticism about midcals, which have about half the calories and carbohydrates of regular colas.

    Coke has put plenty of emphasis on C2. "What needs to be remembered is that we are developing a new category and introducing consumers to a new idea," said spokesman Mart Martin.

    Coke is trying some new tactics, too, including unusual packaging -- packs of eight or 18 cans. The company isn't selling C2 in 2-liter bottles at all. It remains to be seen whether such an approach will work, given the huge importance of packaging in the beverage business.

    "Consumers are creatures of habit," John Faucher of J.P. Morgan said in a recent report that recommended keeping expectations for C2 in check.

    Pepsi isn't making predictions about what will happen with Edge. "It's very early in the game," said spokesman Dave DeCecco.

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