The company ran a vending machine signage in the country that read “Kia ora, mate,” according to online publication Stuff.
Coca-Cola’s attempts to mix English with te reo Maori — the language spoken by New Zealand’s indigenous people — backfired.
While “kia ora” is a form of greeting in the Maori language, which is one of the country’s official languages, “mate” means death. The slogan essentially read, “Greetings, death.”
CNBC has reached out to Coca-Cola for comment.
Earlier this week, a spokesperson from the company told Maori Television that the words were “meant to bring Maori and English together,” and that the label was not being disrespectful to any culture.
Social media users pointed out the irony of the slogan from the beverage-maker, given the impact of sugary drinks.
New Zealand has one of the highest obesity rates in the developed world, according to The Guardian, and its indigenous community is particularly affected.
Others criticized the lack of research from Coca-Cola.