Fizzy Failures: 12 Discontinued sodas

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A few years ago I wrote two articles for the Archie McPhee website Monkey Goggles. They also republished two other articles I wrote here (Glorious Glass and Origins of Our Favorite Toys).  It was a fun little site with quirky humor/pop culture articles and I was glad to contribute.  My buddy Shawn over at Branded in the 80s also wrote a few articles for the site.

Anyway, it seems that the Monkey Goggles website has stopped updating.  There haven’t been any new articles for the last year or so (since editor Geoff Carter left).  So, like Shawn, I decided to archive my articles here before they are swallowed by the Internet.  Today, you are looking at the first all-new article I wrote for the site.  It’s about failed soda.

The Cola Wars of the ’80s and ’90s really brought about a lot of competitive creativity between Pepsi and Coke (and to a lesser degree, 7-Up). They threw whatever soda flavor they could conceive of against the wall to see what would stick. Some worked (Cherry Coke, Mountain Dew Code Red), and some blew up in their faces like a novelty cigar (New Coke, Crystal Pepsi).

Instead of marveling at the thrills of victory, let’s wallow in the agony of their failures. Here’s a list of some of the most spectacular soda failures from the long history of the Cola Wars.

New Coke

New Coke – No list like this one is complete without mentioning the Godfather of all soda failures. Released in 1985, New Coke caused the collective soda-drinking world to lose its damn mind. Coke drinkers actually tried to levy a class action lawsuit against Coke for releasing the new formula. (Seriously.)

It was a fiasco. Coke was forced to bring back Coke Classic not three months after releasing New Coke. After the return of Classic Coke, New Coke was re-branded Coke II and then died a slow death in 1992. The “Classic” moniker still exists on the can to this day. (Read a more complete history of New Coke here).

Crystal Pepsi

Crystal Pepsi – Apparently Pepsi wanted in on all the hate mail and lawsuits Coke got for New Coke. So they decided that they too would try something new. In 1992, Crystal Pepsi was released with great fanfare, including a high-profile commercial during that year’s Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, Crystal Pepsi failed to live up to expectations. A clear cola that didn’t have a lemon-lime taste frightened and confused the soda-drinking public. It became more a novelty than a soda to be taken seriously. Many people don’t remember, though, that for its first year Crystal Pepsi sold well enough to grab an 11% market share (and caused Coke to release the next item on this list). After that banner year, however, the bottom dropped out and Crystal Pepsi’s sales plummeted.

As a last ditch effort, Pepsi reformulated Crystal Pepsi with a lemon-lime flavor and re-branded it as Crystal by Pepsi. Too little, too late.

TaB Clear
TaB Clear – Coke released this clear soda in 1992 after the strong first year sales of Crystal Pepsi. After the clear soda crash that same year, it was quickly discontinued.

OK Soda
OK Soda – In 1992, Coke decided to try something new and released this less carbonated, more fruity soda with anunconventional marketing campaign. Fliers, soda “manifestos” and “underground” phone numbers with voicemail were used to target the youth market. This tactic was definitely different, but it backfired as the targeted audience realized it was being marketed what executives at Coke believed to be an “edgy” soft drink. After poor sales, OK Soda was discontinued in 1993.

7up Gold
7 Up Gold – Released in 1988, 7-Up Gold was a real departure for 7-Up. It had a spicy taste similar to Ginger Ale and it contained caffeine. According to reviews, the taste was terrible and the soda was canceled within a year.

dnL
DnL – This second departure for 7-Up came in 2002. DnL was formulated to be the opposite of regular 7-Up (the logo is even the 7-Up logo turned upside down). 7 Up is a clear soda in a green bottle. DnL was a greenish soda in a clear bottle. Also, unlike regular 7-Up, DnL was heavily caffeinated and had a more difficult-to-identify, citrus-y taste. It was discontinued in 2006 after poor sales.

Mt Dew Sport
Mountain Dew Sport – This 1990 release was designed as a “sports drink” to compete with Gatorade. A diet version was also released the same year. In 2001, ten years after Mountain Dew Sport was canceled, Pepsi decided to simply buy Gatorade outright.

Mello Yello MelonMello Yello Afterglow
Mello Yello Melon and Afterglow – In order to spice up flagging Mello Yello sales (and in response to the success of Mountain Dew Code Red), Coke released these two flavor extensions around 2003. However, peach- and melon-flavored Mello Yello did not exactly set the soda world on fire and they were canceled within a year.

Pepsi Patio
Pepsi Patio – Released in 1963 as a response to Diet Rite cola, this was Pepsi’s first diet drink. There were several Patio flavors: cola, orange, grape, strawberry and root beer. Patio was canceled within six months of its debut due to poor sales.

However, it was not a total loss.While the other flavors in the Patio line were dropped, the cola flavor was reformulated and re-introduced as Diet Pepsi in 1964.

Coke C2 and Pepsi Edge
Coke C2 and Pepsi Edge – Both released in 2004, these rival beverages were meant to be “full-flavored” diet sodas (meaning: they were somewhat “in-between” sodas that weren’t fully diet, but not full-calorie, either). Coke and Pepsi had trouble marketing the sodas, and sales of both suffered. Pepsi Edge was discontinued in 2005, but Coke stuck with Coke C2 until 2008. Interestingly, Pepsi Max and Coke Zero now fill the void these two sodas left behind.

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10 Responses to “Fizzy Failures: 12 Discontinued sodas”

  1. I’d have to say that DnL gets the award for wackiest – and laziest – concept for a new soda ever while Coke’s C2 gets the prize for least remembered.

  2. Awesome. I had never heard of a few of these. Discontinued drinks/foods are always an interesting read. I’m glad you wrote this, because I’ve been hankering for more ever since I read Matt’s discontinued sodas article years ago. Thanks Pax! :)

  3. I loved this post Pax. It always baffles me about how many sodas come and go through the years. The last one you brought up was interesting to think about. I hope the addition of Pepsi Max and Coke Zero hopefully will stick around for a while since I actually like them. But what really needs to happen is CRYSTAL PEPSI needs a comeback. I don’t understand why that hasn’t happened yet!

  4. And in response to Rondal – when it came out, I had no idea what the Coke C2 was and when I looked it up I went searching stores for a good month or 2 and nobody in my area carried it, then it disappeared.

  5. Do you remember when Pepsi discontinued Lemon-Lime Slice around 1998 and replaced with the caffeinated lemon-lime soda called Storm? I never understood why they made a lemon-lime soda with caffeine. Eventually this was discontinued and replaced with Sierra Mist in 2000.

    Another discontinued soda I remember is Citra by Coca-Cola, a citrus soda thtawas introduced around 1998 Also there was a caffeinated-citrus soda by Coca-Cola around that time called Surge. And around 2001, the Coco-Cola company sold an apple-flavored soda from Mexico called “Manzana Mia” (Spanish for “my apple”). It was only sold in some areas and was hard to find. I tried to get some whenever I could, as I loved the stuff.

  6. That’s a soda hall of shame there. Though I am surprised that Coca-Cola Blak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola_Bl%C4%81K) did not make your list. The idea of coffee flavored cola did actually appeal to me (I bought a 4 pack right after the launch) and even I thought it sucked. Just awful.

  7. I do remember Crystal Pepsi :)
    Nice soda fails post.

  8. Ah, so many memories… plus Surge and Citra…

    I still miss Crystal Pepsi, but never got to try New Coke, that I can remember…

  9. To be honest, I loved Crystal Pepsi. WHen it first came out, it tasted EXACTLY like regular pepsi. To a T. Sometime after the first 9 months to a year, it started to have a kind of synthetic tasting after taste. I think I kept trying it for a couple more months then abandoned it.

    Although the whole clear thing was nicely tied up with the Gravy Clear commercial on SNL.

    I remember the coffe flavored coke. God it was ass-tastic.

  10. I loved OK. I completely loved the marketing (I was in the target) and the taste. I was bummed when it disappeared.

    Not so with most of everything else you mention here, although Patio enjoyed a bit of resurgence with an episode of “Mad Men” that spent a great deal of time on the product. :)

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