Hoteliers decide to keep off colas

KOCHI AUG. 10. The hoteliers' association's unprecedented directive to its members not to sell Coca-Cola and Pepsi in the wake of the pesticide row has further jolted the cola market in the State.

The Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA) on Saturday decided that its members would not sell the major cola brands until it was proved that they were contamination-free.

Already badly hit by media reports of alleged pesticide contamination, Coke and Pepsi suffered a further drop in sale because of the KHRA directive.

The directive hit not just the colas, but also the sale of other products of Coca-Cola and Pepsi in the hotels, restaurants, bar-hotels and teashops across the State. Bottled water brands of these companies like Kinley and Aquafina suffered big drop in sales.

K. Kuriakose, general secretary of the association, told The Hindu that the KHRA members had been told to halt the sale because the hoteliers and restaurateurs might face criminal charges for food adulteration.

He said nearly 25,000 hotels, restaurants, lodges and teashops as well as 460 bars (`bar-hotels') were members of the association, some 5,000 in Ernakulam district alone. The restaurants and bars might sell out their current stocks but would not procure fresh ones, he said.

Mr. Kuriakose noted that even before the association's directive, the sale of the two colas at the restaurants and the bars had fallen drastically because of the contamination expose. Since Keralites were health-conscious, reports of any kind of food contamination would reflect on the sale instantly.

The cola row has come in as a jolt to the `cool bars,' `softdrink parlours,' `snack bars' and other outlets where Coke and Pepsi are sold. Trendy softdrink outlets, frequented by teenagers and adolescents, had mushroomed in the State lately. Internet cafes providing softdrinks have been hit too.

It is the second time this year that the multinational Coca-Cola and Pepsi have faced drastic falls in sales in Kerala. In April-May, during the Iraq war, an LDF-backed boycott of the colas had cased a drop in sale.