In our series "The Best Czech Products" we introduce the finest, most famous and traditional brands or products made in the Czech Republic. All products in this series are considered as national treasures by the Czechs themselves and you can be sure to get the top quality for you or your friends and family.
The first post of our series was all about Czech national drink, world-known beer Pilsner Urquell. And today we'll take a look at our national soft drink, legendary Kofola!
Story of Kofola started back in 1950s when Dr. Zdeněk Blažek and his team were given a tricky task of developing a beverage that would compete with Western cola sodas that were not available in Czechoslovakia during the communist rule from 1948 to 1989. It took them two years before they came up with the optimal ingredients for the Kofo syrup, which served as the basis of the new drink. Among other things it consisted of fourteen herbal or fruit ingredients (e.g., leaves of blackberry or licorice) and caffeine.
The Kofola started selling in 1960 and it soon became very popular. So popular that in the late 1960s, Czechoslovakia ran out of the herbs and it had to be imported. After an enormous success at the Ex Plzeň food trade fair, Kofola's popularity peaked. Conferences of experts were organized and Kofola appeared in the names of many events. More than 180 million liters (47 million gallons) were produced annually.
But sweet candy times ended with the fall of the Iron Curtain. Previously unavailable American sodas flooded local market and Kofola almost disappeared for the whole 1990s. It changed its owners several times. But 1998 was the year of the great events. Czech ice-hockey team won the Olympic gold and Kofola finally found a new owner. It was bought by the Greek family of Samaras and their company Santa.
Starting with the new millennium Kofola was reborn and started another great journey lasting to these days. With the help of genius marketing it has become a real legend among Czech soft drinks. In 2001 Kofola came up with the slogan "If you love her there's no other needs" (Když ji miluješ, není co řešit) and it was a huge hit. The company had very clever commercials everyone remembered and quoted. The most popular one with a cute little girl and a "golden pig" started before Christmas in 2003 and people in the Czech Republic can't imagine Christmas without this spot even today. Another popular commercial featured dog Phteven known from memes.
In 2006 Kofola was more popular than famous American brands in the Czech Republic. Good news is that Kofola has almost one-third less sugar and up to half less caffeine than classic cola drinks. In 2004 Kofola introduced first special flavor, citrus. Since then consumers could have tasted more than 20 different flavors including guarana, watermelon, coconut, almond or cinnamon.
Scotland has Irn-Bru, France has Orangina, South Korea has Milkis, USA has Coca-Cola and the Czech Republic has Kofola. This soft drink has become a real legend, and no one should really leave without tasting it or getting a few bottles for friends or family.
Best enjoyed: Visit one of the restaurants serving draft Kofola
Gift ideas: 0.25 l cans, 0.33 l glass or 0.5/1/1.5/2 l plastic bottles
Where to buy: Plastic bottles and cans can be bought in almost every grocery shop in Prague
Price: 0.5 l bottles usually for 15-20 CZK (0.6-0.8 EUR)