Coke unveiled the white cans emblazoned with silver polar bears on November 1, as it launched Arctic Home, a commitment of $2 million to WWF efforts to protect polar bear habitats. Coke also asked U.S. consumers to text in $1 donations, and pledged to match their gifts up to a total of $1 million.
The initiative appeared to be a neat confluence of marketing and sustainability, based around an animal that’s both a threatened species and a Coca-Cola icon, used by the company since 1922. As well as turning the classic Coke can white, the company also stuck white caps on bottles of Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, Nestea, Minute Maid and other drinks.
But it was also the first time Coke changed the color of the can to support a cause, and the move appears to have backfired, with drinkers of Diet Coke – including diabetics – complaining that they bought the real thing instead, Time reports.
At the time of their launch, Coca-Cola had promised that more than 1.4 billion white Coke cans would hit the shelves, from November through February, but this week it will start shipping red cans again, The Week reports. Still, Time says, more than a billion cans have been shipped so far, and though production of these will stop, the white cans won’t be yanked from shelves.
The blunder recalls packaging missteps of the past, such as Frito-Lay’s first attempt at a compostable bag for its SunChips snacks. That move caused an outcry from consumers who said the bag was too noisy, causing Frito-Lay to temporarily transition back to original packaging in October 2010, before introducing a quieter compostable bag in February of this year.
Frito-Lay is owned by Coke rival PepsiCo.