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Die-hard fans of Northern Neck Ginger Ale aren't giving up the fight to save their favorite 'zombie' Coca-Cola brand

  • Coca-Cola plans to drop 200 brands, including Tab and Zico, by the end of the year.
  • A few of these drinks have dedicated followings trying to save them.
  • Fans of Northern Neck Ginger Ale, a regional soda, have organized a Facebook group and even reach out to the governor for help.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A regional Virginia soda is another casualty of 2020, and its small but dedicated group of fans isn't going down without a fight.

Stephanie Johnson first started the "Save Northern Neck Ginger Ale" Facebook group in 2018, when she noticed a shortage on shelves at local stores. When she asked about the missing drinks, employees told her "Coca-Cola isn't sending as much anymore."

Last month,beverage giant Coca-Cola announced it would stop selling about 200 brands by the end of 2020, cutting its offerings in half. Tab, Zico, and Odwalla have been publicly axed, with more to come, the company said on an earnings call.

Read more: Zico, Coke's top coconut water brand, is the latest to be axed as food and beverage companies cut underperforming products during the pandemic

Coke hasn't yet named all the brands it will drop, but CEO James Quincey said that half of Coca-Cola's portfolio generated only 2% of revenue. Going forward, the company will focus on the biggest brands, like Coke and Sprite. This strategy shift put regional drinks like Northern Neck Ginger Ale on the chopping block.

Coca-Cola normally makes and bottles Northern Neck Ginger Ale at Coca-Cola Consolidated in Sandston, Virginia. Earlier this summer, the coronavirus halted production in a preview of what was to come. "Due to industry-wide supply issues of cans, some products including Northern Neck Ginger Ale have been temporarily suspended," Vice president of communications Brian Nick told News on the Neck in July. 

The ginger ale is primarily sold in Virginia's Northern Neck between the Potomac and Rappahannoc Rivers, but its reach extends much farther. Karol Langemo has lived in Minnesota since 2008, but she still requests regular shipments of Northern Neck Ginger Ale from her parents whenever they visit, when they bring six or seven cases each time. "My parents bring me that ginger ale because it's the best! It has the most fresh [sic] ginger taste of any ginger ale I've ever tried," she told Business Insider. She even gave the drink out as a wedding favor to out of town guests when she got married.

Jim Kulpa teaches at the American School in Doha, Qatar, nearly 7,000 miles from Virginia. Kulpa is from the area, and one of his student's parents sent him a few cans as a gift. He says he has one left, which he has been saving.

Northern Neck Ginger Ale has been around since 1926, and the brand was acquired by Coca-Cola in 2001. Since Coca-Cola announced the decision to scrap the drink, fans have turned out in support. At least three Change.org petitions are going around, with thousands of signatures. While some fans propose Coca-Cola sell the rights back to a local company, one petition suggests making the soda a national product." It's inevitable anyone who tastes it that has not had it yet will feel the same. Make the production national and share this goodness with the world!!" it reads.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam weighed in, too.

Northam tweeted that he would do everything in his power to keep the drink on shelves. Coca-Cola spokesperson Kate Hartman confirmed that the company had heard from the governor, but because of the national strategy of cutting out underperforming "zombie" brands, Coke would not be able to resurrect the drink.

"We know there is a great affinity for the product locally, and we are deeply grateful to the thousands of Virginians who have been loyal consumers since 1926. With this loyalty in mind, I want to assure you that we did not make this decision lightly" she wrote to Business Insider.

Coca-Cola has been clear that the 200 brands being discontinued need to go and it will not continue production despite petitions or outreach. However, this hasn't deterred members of the Facebook group, who continue to propose strategies and petition local stores to agree to stock the drink. Some members are also fans of Tab, another soda getting scrapped, and the groups swap strategies and ideas for saving their beloved drinks.

Cesca Janece explained that to her, Northern Neck Ginger Ale is "part of the culture of this unique region, the Northern Neck. Regional cultures are increasingly threatened…It ultimately results in a largely homogenized culture that lacks the uniqueness of communities."

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