Man, how do you even decide which soda to put in your shopping cart? Do you have an unwavering brand loyalty to Diet Coke? Do you go for store-brand Big K because it’s stupid-cheap and also because it’s not Pepsi? Or do you go for the clear bottles of Not See Kola becau– wait, say that out loud again.
Earlier this week, Kate Boyle was at Macey’s Grocery Store in West Jordan, Utah, when she saw an unexpected bottle of soda on the shelf, one that had an angry looking eagle on its label. She sounded out the name—Not See Kola—and was completely surprised that the product existed, and that it was on sale in Utah. “We were having some friends over and I thought [the bottles] looked really fun,” Boyle told KSL. “I looked at it and I thought, wait a minute, this is Nazi Cola.”
She tweeted her displeasure to Macey’s, writing “Shocked and horrified to see that @maceysgrocery carries Not See (Nazi) from Real Soda of Utah. Please stop selling this offensive product! Six million Jews were murdered by Nazis! You have lost my business.” (Unsurprisingly, Boyle has since made her Twitter account private).
Macey’s responded quickly, apologizing to Boyle and assuring her that it would no longer stock Not See Kola or two other sodas produced by the same company, Real Soda in Real Bottles, Ltd. “This item was not approved at a corporate level,” Macey’s said.
Danny Ginsburg, the founder of Real Soda in Real Bottles, says that everybody needs to just take a deep breath, have a drink of not-at-all-Nazi-related Not See Kola and chill out. “None of our stuff promotes Nazism or communism, and I would not promote any of those because I don’t believe in any of those philosophies and I don’t like those philosophies,” he told KSL. “We’re just a beverage company [...] Everyone has their own gimmick.”
Real Soda’s gimmick is its kind of-controversial names for its craft sodas. In addition to Not See, it also sells “Orthodox Joose” and “Leninade,” a red drink with a hammer and sickle on the bottle, and the slogan “A Taste Worth Standing in Line For!” (Those sodas have also been dropped by Macey’s.)
Ginsburg—who is Jewish—says that Not See Kola has been sold for the past decade, and its name is just a play on words based on the fact that it’s a clear soda. He also insists that it should be pronounced “Note-Zey,” which is German for “Lake Emergency.” (That sounds like total bullshit, but it is called “Lake Distress Cola” on this 2010 list of the company’s offerings.)
“[The drink] has been around for ten years, and it has never had this kind of extremity of focus,” he said.
That may be the case, but it’s worth noting that ten years ago, we didn’t have khaki-wearing, torch-carrying, self-proclaimed Nazis shouting, “JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US” on a US college campus. We didn’t have proud neo-Nazis running for Congress or state legislatures, including one man who refers to the Holocaust as “the biggest, blackest lie in history.” (Yes, David Duke existed a decade ago. But now there are more David Dukes, and they’re louder and bolder.)
Given the current political climate, you’d think Ginsberg might be interested in, say, shelving this one for a while—but he says that he has no plans to do that. (Real Soda of Utah, which distributes the drinks within the state, said that it understands that “everyone has differing senses of humor” but will continue to provide “a wide variety of sodas that everyone can enjoy.”)
“The Nazis came to power because people were desensitized to things like this, and I don’t want Utah to become desensitized,” Boyle said.
And for now, at least one grocery store agrees with her.