Inca Kola (also known as "the Golden Kola" in international advertising) is a soft drink that was created in Peru in 1935, by British immigrant José Robinson Lindley using lemon verbena (verbena de Indias or cedrón in Spanish). The soda has an unusual sweet fruity flavor that resembles a little of its main ingredient (Hierba Luisa). Americans compare its flavor to liquid bubblegum. It has been described as "an acquired taste" whose "intense colour alone is enough to drive away the uninitiated."
The Coca-Cola Company owns the Inca Kola trademark everywhere but in Peru. In Peru, the Inca Kola trademark is owned by Corporación Inca Kola Perú S.A., which since 1999 is a joint venture between the Coca-Cola Company and the Lindley family, former sole owners of Corporación Inca Kola Perú S.A. and Corporación José R. Lindley S.A..
In 1911, in Rímac, one of Lima's oldest and most traditional neighborhoods, an immigrant English family began a small bottling company under their family name, Lindley. In 1928, the company was formally chartered in Peru as Corporación José R. Lindley S.A., whereupon Joseph R. Lindley became its first General Manager. By the early 1930s, the company had a line of ten flavors of soda including Orange Squash, Lemon Squash, Champagne Cola, and Cola Rosada. In 1935, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Lima's founding, Lindley introduced what was to become its most noted product, Inca Kola, whose flavor was based on Lemon Verbena (Spanish: Verbena de Indias or Cedrón). He had experimented with various mixtures, other ingredients and levels of carbonation until finally, he came up with this combination of thirteen special plant derived flavors. The company launched "Inca Kola" under the slogan "There is only one Inca Kola and it's like no other" (Inca Kola sólo hay una y no se parece a ninguna). By the mid-1940s, Inca Kola was a market leader in Lima due to an aggressive advertising campaign appealing to the prevalence of Peruvian nationalism among the population. Bottling volume expanded greatly, growing steadily and positioning it as a traditional Peruvian drink, using national and indigenous iconography and images. This advertising campaign appealing to nationalism was so successful that some Peruvians believe it is their "national duty" to drink only Inca Kola and some Peruvians even believe that it is a "sacrilege" to drink any other soda. On January 22, 2009, Inca Kola partnered with D'Onofrio, an iconic Peruvian ice cream brand owned by Nestlé, to launch an Inca Kola flavored ice pop. Inca Kola reached levels of 38% market penetration by 1970, eclipsing all other carbonated drinks in Peru and firmly establishing itself as "Peru's Drink" (La Bebida del Perú). A common logo in the late 1970s and early 1980s featured the slogan "Made of National Flavor!" (¡De Sabor Nacional!), later changed to "The taste of Peru" (El Sabor del Perú). In the United States, Inca Kola is manufactured by the Coca-Cola Company and sold in supermarkets in 2-liter (68 US fl oz) bottles, cans, and individual bottles.
In 1995, Coca-Cola had 32% of the market share of soda sales in Peru while Inca Kola had 32.9%. Since that year, however, the market share for Inca Kola has increased due to some fast food chains including it in their menus. Bembos, a Peruvian fast-food chain, switched from serving Coca-Cola to Inca Kola in 1995. Due to popular demand, McDonald's also began to serve Inca Kola at its locales in Peru in 1995, before Coca-Cola owned the Inca Kola brand (at the time, the only place in the world where Coca-Cola agreed to such an arrangement).
Lindley underwent corporate restructuring in 1997. The expansion resulted in a debt load that took a heavy toll, and Lindley lost almost $5 million in 1999. The company, looking for outside help, turned to the Coca-Cola Co., which acquired half of Inca Kola Perú and one-fifth of Corporación José R. Lindley S.A. for an undisclosed sum believed to have been about $200 million. Johnny Lindley Taboada, a grandson of the founder and chairman of Corporación José R. Lindley S.A., became chairman of the joint venture between Coke and Inca Kola. Coca-Cola became the sole owner of the Inca Kola trademark everywhere outside of Peru whereas inside Peru a joint-venture agreement was forged. To date, Ecuador and the United States (mostly New York and the rest of the Northeast) are two of the countries where Inca Kola is bottled by the Coca-Cola Company.
- 1935: Inca Kola OK.
- 1936 – 1950: Solo hay una y no se parece a ninguna ("There is only one, unlike any other").
- 1960 – 1980: La bebida del sabor nacional ("The national flavored drink").
- 1980 – 1985: El sabor de la alegría ("The taste of happiness").
- 1985 – 1989: La bebida del sabor nacional ("The national flavored drink").
- 1990 – 1995: Es nuestra, La bebida del Perú ("It's ours! The drink of Peru").
- 1996 – 1999: Pide bien; que con todo combina ("Demand it, it mixes with everything").
- 2000 – 2001: El sabor de lo nuestro ("The national taste").
- 2001 – 2003: Hay una sola y el Perú sabe por qué ("There is only one, and Peru knows why").
- 2003 – 2005: El sabor del Perú ("The taste of Peru").
- 2005: Destapa el sabor del Perú ("Discover the flavor of Peru").
- 2005 – 2006: Celebra el Perú ("Celebrate Peru").
- 2006: Qué buena idea ("What a good idea").
- 2007: El sabor de la creatividad ("The taste of creativity").
- 2008 – 2009: Con creatividad todo es posible ("With creativity, anything is possible").
- 2010: Inca Kola 75 años ("Inca Kola: 75 years old").
- 2015: Vamos por más ("Let's go for more").