New Coke

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How refreshing that coca-cola co. is taking a pause from the same old way of doing business. It's doing the unthinkable in locating a think tank in New York, far from its Atlanta home base. It's making equity investments in relevant Internet and e-commerce ventures. And, after being beat out by archrival PepsiCo for the purchase of new-age beverage powerhouse South Beach Beverages, Coca-Cola rebounded by setting its sights on Quaker Oats Co. and its Gatorade sports drink juggernaut.

Inevitably, some of those moves may fall through or fail. But the cola giant should be applauded for uncharacteristically thinking out of the box. Whether it's reality or perception, creative approaches in the soft-drink business have largely been seen as the domain of rival Pepsi-Cola Co. And indeed, it may be Pepsi that's driving Coca-Cola to adapt.

"They figure they'll control a portion of the economy and lock Pepsi out," said an executive familiar with plan. "If 10 flop, [they believe] so what, one will go gangbusters."

Taking chances may be just the fizz that Coca-Cola needs at a time when its core business, soft drinks, is relatively flat vs. alternative beverages and the company is struggling to deliver on its growth rate promises to Wall Street.

Staying in its Southern ivory tower is no way to keep its finger on the pulse of its consumers. "You've got to get closer to the consumer, and the consumer isn't always in Atlanta," said an executive close to Coca-Cola.

In other words, consumers are the real thing.

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