Virgin Cola was set up during the early 1990s in conjunction with Cott, a Canadian company that specialises in bottling own-label drinks. Cott was looking for a major international brand that could have global appeal. Virgin founder, Richard Branson was looking to widen the Virgin name and to rival Coca-Cola and Pepsi brands.
Virgin Cola began to hit international shores within its first year. The UK first served the drink on Virgin Atlantic flights, on-board shops on Virgin Trains and also at Virgin Cinemas. The Gulliver’s Kingdom chain of theme parks in the UK also sold post mix Virgin cola. This led Virgin Cola to agree a distribution deal with British supermarket retailer Tesco in 1994.
From 1996, the 500 ml bottles were marketed as “The Pammy”, as their curves were designed to resemble Pamela Anderson who was at the height of her popularity in the UK at the time. It went on to be launched in France, Belgium and South Africa.
In 1998, Branson himself attended the USA launch of Virgin Cola, driving a tank into New York City’s Times Square as part of the launch. It subsequently agreed distribution channels with US retailers such as Target. Virgin Drinks USA, the company dealing in Virgin Cola’s US market closed in April 2001, having managed to establish just a 0.5% share of the market by volume.
In 1999 a bottle of Virgin Cola can be seen on the coffee table in Monica and Rachel’s apartment during the February 4th US airing of the Friends episode entitled “The one with Joey’s bag”. Richard Branson had previously appeared in an episode and was said to be a fan of the show.
In 2002, a vanilla cola called Virgin Vanilla was launched in the UK, ahead of the launch of a similar product from rival Coca-Cola. In 2004, it was announced that Virgin Vanilla would be discontinued in order to focus on the teenage market.
In 2007, Silver Spring acquired the UK licence from Princes limited. However, in 2012 the company fell into administration and ceased production. No company acquired the UK Virgin Cola licence in its place.
Countries in which Virgin Cola is sold
Today, despite the collapse of Virgin Cola in the United Kingdom, Virgin Cola is still sold in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Malta, Nigeria, China, Switzerland, Tunisia, and Philippines. Virgin Drinks has since fallen, but bottling companies in these countries have acquired the licence.