It should come as no surprise that iconic investor Warren Buffett is one of the world’s best-known fans of Cherry Coca-Cola. At almost every public appearance for a generation, Buffett has been seen taking a swig of his favorite drink.
What may come as a surprise is that Buffett’s likeness is gracing the front of Cherry Coke cans in China to promote the drink’s official Chinese launch.
Chinese consumers love new flavors and crave excitement from brands like ours as we launch new products,” said Shelly Lin, Coca-Cola China’s Marketing Director for Trademark Coca-Cola. “As we thought of the most creative ways to bring the great taste of Cherry Coke to China, we thought who better to celebrate the launch of this special drink than its best-known fan.
"We honestly were surprised when Mr. Buffett agreed to the idea. But we’re thrilled, and he’s selling well,” Lin continued.
Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent said he is pleased that the China business chose to launch Buffett’s favorite drink in such a unique way.
“I can’t think of a better way to launch Cherry Coke than with its best-known fan on the package,” Kent said. “It is an honor for us to be able to feature Warren on his favorite drink as it rolls out in one of the world’s most exciting and dynamic consumer markets.”
Yahoo Finance reported on how this all came about. "Four or five months ago, [Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO] Muhtar [Kent] said they were going to introduce Cherry Coke into China and asked me about putting my picture on the cans and bottles," Buffett told Yahoo Finance. "I said it would be fine to do it for the first six months after launching the product. If there are no problems associated with this and he asks me to continue, I will likely say OK. Incidentally, there is no compensation involved."
For the drawing, Buffett said, "I did not sit down for a portrait. I think Muhtar knew better than to ask for this; I’ve never been keen on that sort of activity.'”
Launched in mainland China on March 10, Cherry Coke is available in both traditional and modern trade outlets in 330-ml cans and 500-ml PET bottles. Buffett will appear on the special-edition cans for a limited promotional period, while supplies last.
When Cherry Coke launched in the United States in 1985, it marked the first flavor extension of the Coca-Cola trademark. After early success in the U.S., it expanded to other markets and today is sold in more than 30 countries worldwide.
In addition to Buffett’s penchant for Cherry Coke, The Coca-Cola Company and Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, have a long history together. Since the late 1980s, Berkshire has been Coca-Cola’s largest single shareowner with an investment of 400 million shares. In its most recent annual report, Berkshire disclosed a gain on its Coca-Cola investment of more than $15 billion, not including the ongoing benefits of quarterly dividends.
Recent reports indicate that Buffett’s investing success has become legendary in China, prompting an increasing number of Chinese investors to make the annual trip to Berkshire Hathaway’s Annual Meeting in Omaha, Neb.