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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crazy Cola Cuts Niche In Siberia

KRASNOYARSK, Western Siberia -- Sold at every stall, present on every table and advertised on television throughout western Siberia, locally made Crazy Cola is waging a plucky David and Goliath battle against the giant Coke.


Last year, U.S.-based Coca-Cola set up a factory at Krasnoyarsk, 4,000 kilometers from Moscow and the same distance from Vladivostok. Three months ago a local manufacturer called Pikra responded with Crazy Cola, encouraging consumers to drink Russian.


"Crazy Cola is laughing both at Coca-Cola and ourselves," said Pikra boss Yevgenia Kuznetsova. "We know that a small regional firm has a hard job fighting a multinational.


"But I am on my home ground," added Kuznetsova, who is a graduate of a U.S. business school and has worked at Coke's great worldwide rival, Pepsi-Cola.


Since March, Pikra has sold 400,000 liters of Crazy Cola, she said.


Across town at Coca-Cola, meanwhile, the company's Krasnoyarsk head, Sitos Reyes, says he is not afraid of competition from Pikra. He said he sold 6 million liters of soda in central Siberia in just six months or so last year.


But he admitted: "They are very strong, particularly in soft drinks."


Founded as a brewery in 1875 -- its name derives from pivo, Russian for beer, and Krasnoyarsk -- Pikra is one of modern Russia's success stories.


When she took over as the head of the company in 1987 it was in a deplorable state, Kuznetsova said. "The equipment was out of date and a third of the 400 employees were drunks."


Now Pikra is regional market leader in non-alcoholic drinks, including lemonade, mineral water and fruit juices. Pikra still produces 13 different types of beer.


Pikra's profits in 1996 came to $5 million, as much as it had borrowed over the past three years to finance its modernization, while the work force has risen to 900, half of them sales staff.