Some consumers of the Coca Cola drink have accused the Nigerian Bottling Company, its bottler, of engaging in illegal practices.
Precisely, the consumers, in separate interviews with The Point, alleged that the world-acclaimed popular brand had been selling expired 35cl Coca-Cola drink (in plastic bottles) in some areas in Lagos State, a situation they described as worrisome.
Having survived the voluntary delisting, manufacturing defects and ascorbic acid crisis, which shook the company to its foundations, the management of NBC may be having yet another crisis to grapple with, going by the allegations.
Some of the patrons that spoke with The Point, disclosed that they had complained several times to the agents of the company, and that they even promised to report the case to concerned regulatory authorities, but that the situation persisted.
When I saw that, I rushed home to check about 20 bottles I had consumed in the last one month, only to realise that the products expired in March, 2018. I was shocked when I got to the store to lodge a complaint and found that most of the Coca Cola drinks in their refrigerator had expired in March 2018
In an interview with our correspondent around Cele-Egbe area of Lagos, a public relations consultant, Mr. Wole Isaac, disclosed that he bought and almost finished drinking an unbreakable bottle of the 35cl of Coca Cola at N110 (instead of N100) on June 5, 2018 before he found that the product had expired in March, 2018, about three months back.
He narrated, “When I saw that, I rushed home to check about 20 bottles I had consumed in the last one month, only to realise that the products expired in March, 2018. I was shocked when I got to the store to lodge a complaint and found that most of the Coca Cola drinks in their refrigerator had expired in March 2018.”
Another consumer, who resided around Ikotun area of Lagos, Mr. Bola Adenowo, told our correspondent in an interview that he purchased 12 bottles of 35cl Coca Cola from a store on Jamiu Raji Street, within the area, on May Day, this year, and was dismayed when he found that they were all expired after consumption.
Immediately he complained, the owner of the store, who according to Adenowo pretended she was unaware, revealed that she just received the stock that morning from the truck of the company.
He said, “I didn’t believe her story of ignorance and I created a scene. Within a few minutes, some passersby confirmed that they had fallen victims of the expired drinks, especially at the store and others within the area.
“We later found that the drinks were supplied to retailers on Jamiu Raji Street by an NBC agent, simply known as Mike. I was shocked when one of the passers-by alleged that about 80 per cent of the stores around Cele-Egbe area of Alimosho Local Government area of Lagos sell expired Coca Cola.”
A media practitioner, Ms. Nse Owoeye, a resident of Abesan Estate, Ipaja, Laos, also alleged that despite the fact that the brand was the most expensive among similar brands, it remained the one with most controversies.
She said, “There are several times I bought Coca Cola with strange taste as most of them would almost taste like water. The company has taken us for a ride for too long and this is the time for us to say ‘no’ to the menace, and defend ourselves as regulatory authorities have failed to protect us.
“I believe that some of the retailers bought the products from the company about one month to the expiry date at a cheaper rate and sold at same price with non-expired products to make more money. It appears the regulatory authorities like National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, and Consumer Protection Council have abandoned their responsibility of protecting consumers; they should have teams that should go round at least major cities across the country, to check products.”
Another patron, Ms. Olukemi Ajikawo, who also fell victim to the fake product, disagreed with Owoeye that the products were bought shortly before they expired, as she insisted that the products were sold to them by some unscrupulous staff of NBC after they had expired.
She alleged, “I had traced one of the trucks that supplies my area to a depot around Egbeda and found that the products, which were meant to be destroyed or wasted in the company, were taken out of the factory and sold at cheaper rates to retailers across some suburbs in the state, without the consent of the management.”
EXPIRED PRODUCTS, BANE OF BRANDS’ GROWTH – EXPERTS
Some brand experts told our correspondent that the development has become a big challenge to the growth and development of major brands and the Nigerian economy at large.
One of them, who is the Chief Operating Officer, Soul Link, Ms. Mary Adewale, explained that the key to market competition certainly is not the price but the quality.
According to her, it is doubtful that most countries in Europe would ever be able to compete on price as they have been able to take their place in world markets due to quality of goods and paying great attention to product control and customers’ satisfaction.
She said, “It is not that there are no few expired products in developed nations but they can be easily identified and dealt with. But in Nigeria, the only time we realise that we have bought an expired product is when they were consumed or when they have negative effects on us after use.”
Another public relations consultant, Mr. Yemi Akinola, said that it is even worse with consumables because the product could have a long-term effect on our health and most times, on the future of the brands, especially when it is already in the news.
According to him, most consumers would not care if the management is aware of the menace or not as the development would affect product’s patronage, which will force the producers to spent fortunes to correct.
He said, “The best thing to do is to prevent such crisis from happening rather than correcting them, by ensuring all controls are in place to prevent consumers seeing expired products in the market, much less consume them.
“Relevant authorities need to intervene and rein in companies manufacturing, importing and distributing either fake or expired products. We have been fooled for far too long. Some will weigh less and others more and worse still, even expired (some people even tamper with expiry dates). The rate at which food and medical products are being duplicated has worsened.”
‘COCA-COLA’LL REPLACE ANY EXPIRED PRODUCT’
Efforts to obtain a reaction from the Nigeria Bottling Company met with brick-walls, as a mail sent to the Public Relations Unit of the outfit had not been responded to, at press time.
But a media consultant to the organisation, Mr. Ofuma Agali, replied in a text conversation, saying, “I notified them some time at Coca-Cola. Please send location and shop address and they (Coca-Cola) will send their sales’ team to investigate and ensure (that) the expired products, if found, are replaced immediately.”