In December 2010, a newly minted beverage company called Gosverksmiðjan Klettur launched Klettagos, an Icelandic soft drink that looked and tasted much like internationally-available dark colas like Coke or Pepsi. They boasted being able to sell the soda for less than Coke or Pepsi, and their bottle came with hip labelling, featuring young Icelanders singing, laughing and playing guitar.
What the heck happened? To understand that, you need to understand Ölgerð Egils Skallagríms and Vífilfell, two Icelandic beverage giants, who control domestic distribution of Pepsi and Coke, respectively.
These two companies not only sell soft drinks. They make contracts with bars and restaurants for the rights to sell them, and they have agreements with shops dictating how much shelf space they get for their products. As such, Ölgerð Egils Skallagríms and Vífilfell are pretty much the only game in town, producing a lot of other more localised Icelandic beverages—such as the ubiquitous Applesin—and subsuming others.
This is exactly what Gosverksmiðjan contended was their demise, and the Icelandic Competition Authority agreed. In a 2020 ruling, the Competition Authority found that Ölgerð Egils Skallagríms and Vífilfell deliberately took up an inordinate amount of shelf space and set their own products more prominently, in some instances dispatching their employees to remove Klettagos bottles altogether.
In the end, Ölgerð Egils Skallagríms paid 20 million ISK in fines, and Vífilfell paid 17 million ISK. A far cry from the 330 million Gosverksmiðjan lost, but the real loss is still felt to this day by the Icelandic people. Klettagos didn’t just die; it was murdered. Where for one shining moment, we had our own homegrown, caramel-coloured, caffeinated beverage, today it is merely a warm memory of a simpler time
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