With Coke and Pepsi out, Russian company says it's time for Cola Chernogolovka


MOSCOW (Reuters) - With Coke and Pepsi having suspended sales in Russia, the makers of Cola Chernogolovka hope to slake the thirsts of Russians including at big American fast food chains.

Chernogolovka, a drinks company named for a town outside Moscow where it was founded in 1998, told Reuters on Wednesday it has more than doubled its presence in hotels, restaurants and cafes so far this year, and is now supplying Russian outlets of Burger King and KFC.

"We think this is far from the limit," the company told Reuters in response to questions.

"Since April, Burger King and KFC have been supplied with Chernogolovka drinks," the company said. In addition to Cola Chernogolovka, its brands include Baikal, an energy drink named after a Siberian lake, and Duchess, a lemonade, both of which it sells at Burger King and KFC.

"We are in talks about widening the range of drinks that we supply to this chain," Chernogolovka said of Burger King.

Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc suspended soda sales in Russia early March, joining the many Western consumer brands to curtail operations there in opposition to Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

Pepsi in particular had a long history in Russia, dating back to the Cold War when then-U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon was photographed introducing it to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at an exhibition in Moscow. Pepsi sent cola to the Soviets in return for Stolichnaya vodka to sell in America.

Burger King, run by parent company Restaurant Brands International Inc (RBI), halted corporate support for its Russia locations in March, but, caught in a complex legal web, it hasn't been able to exit its partnership or close its roughly 800 franchised locations.

KFC, owned by Yum Brands Inc, has paused investment in Russia and suspended operations of its 70 KFC company-owned restaurants there, but Yum has limited control over the independent franchisees that run most of the 1,000 locations, which have remained open.

An RBI spokesperson said Burger King was not involved in daily operations in Russia. Yum Brands did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Peter Graff)

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