An item that was likely to be making appearances in several Christmas stockings this year is a novelty Coca-Cola can emblazoned with the Cayman Islands coat of arms.
The limited-edition cans, which were launched at an event at Pedro St. James earlier this month, have begun appearing in stores throughout the islands. Even Santa has been in on the act, handing out the cans, as well as other presents, in a parade on Monday, 21 Dec.
How Cayman’s national symbol came to be on a can of Coke is a tale that began more than a year ago, as an idea by the late Robert Hamaty, who passed away on 13 June, and his team at the Tortuga Fine Wines & Spirits Company.
Dario Rivers, Tortuga’s Coca-Cola brand manager, said, “We saw an opportunity to create something that offered a token of our appreciation for the Caymanian people. That was the original plan, but obviously with all that’s happened in the past year, it’s become more than that. We wanted to offer people a sense of pride, a sense of unity.
“It’s not about a Coca-Cola can, it’s about what the can represents.”
“It’s not about a Coca-Cola can, it’s about what the can represents. It’s a conversation piece, it’s a collector’s item. People are buying it, not to drink it, but to keep it.”
Rivers explained, “It started a year ago with Mr. Hamaty, prior to his untimely passing. … He and I and Carlos (Espinosa) and Jeremy (Ebanks) of the Coca-Cola team spoke long and hard about how we were going to make this happen.”
The signature red Coca-Cola can prominently features the iconic shield that appears on the Cayman Islands flag, showing a lion, a turtle, a pineapple and the three stars that represent the three islands of Cayman, with the motto, ‘He hath founded it upon the seas’.
Below it are the words ‘Cayman Islands, Taste The Feeling’, and in the background are the outlines of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Putting a country’s national emblem on a commercial product isn’t a simple matter. Permission must be secured from Cabinet to use national symbols, such as the coat of arms, flag or national song, and a licence fee is required.
“We had a lot of back and forth on the design process with the government. There were certain creative freedoms we could not have,” Rivers said, as there are very strict guidelines to ensure that the integrity of the coat of arms remains intact and is not tarnished in any way.
Once the team got the go-ahead, after working with the Protocol Office, the government and Coca-Cola, the next step was get the final design to the bottlers in Puerto Rico, where the regional Coca-Cola plant is located.
More than 100,000 of the cans are expected to be sold.
“Of course, there have been custom cans before,” Rivers said, “but I’ve never seen anyone do this before, with a national symbol on a can. It’s one of a kind, something we’re very proud of,” adding that it has been very well received locally.
Tortuga took the cans on a Christmas parade through local neighbourhoods on 21 Dec., delivering Coke cans and gifts to children and adults.
Rivers said the cans are a gift from Tortuga, and as well as perhaps giving a sugary morale boost to the islands in what has been a difficult year, the cans also serve to honour the memory of the company’s founder.
“It ended up be a homage to Mr. Hamaty,” Rivers said. “He was part of the initial conversation about this. We started this with him and finished it for him.”