Pepsi to take Coca-Cola to court over Powerade claims

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 14th April 2009

PepsiCo has filed a lawsuit against major competitor The Coca-Cola Company, alleging false advertising that unfairly tarnishes their Gatorade brand.

The owners of the world’s largest selling sports drink have taking umbrage with a campaign in the US, which implies that Coca Cola’s Powerade ION4 is the more “complete” sports beverage because it has magnesium and calcium. The campaign has showcased photos of Gatorade bottles cut in half beneath slogans such as “Don’t settle for an incomplete sports drink”.

The challenge centres on claims calcium and magnesium in Powerade help make the drink an improvement on Gatorade. This suggestion is refuted by Pepsi, who assert that there is no proof ION4 offers better performance and the amount in Powerade is so minimal that consumers could be able to get more out of tap water.

Coke’s campaign “is a calculated, intentional strategy designed to falsely and viciously attack the readily identifiable market leader, Gatorade, in the hopes of unfairly gaining precious market share,” Pepsi unit Stokely-Van Camp said in its complaint, according to Reuters.

While Pepsi trails Coke in the carbonated sector, they are well and truly dominant in the sports drink category, with around three-quarters of the US market, while Coke’s Powerade languishes with just over 20 per cent.

Coca-Cola’s advertising has been under the spotlight this year, with the ACCC slamming their ‘myth-busting’ ad campaign as misleading and a leading consumer group in the US taking them to court for alleged “deceptive and unsubstantiated claims” on its glaceau vitaminwater line of beverages.

PepsiCo is requesting that the advertising ceases, bottles of Powerade ION4 with “deceptive labels” be recalled and unspecified monetary compensation. Coca-Cola has indicated they will defend themselves against the claims.