A Crystal Pepsi Retrospective on its 20th birthday

Sodapalooza

Today is the 20th birthday of Crystal Pepsi. So in honor of our see through friend, I thought I’d take a look back at one of the more maligned soda drinks of our time.

In the ’90s there was a movement within America that equated clarity with purity. Pepsi decided to jump on this trend and create a colorless decaffeinated soda. Pepsi hoped that people would notice a colorless soda above other darker sodas and think that it’s more pure due to it’s colorless appearance and assume it would have less artificial coloring. Pepsi dubbed their new soda Crystal Pepsi and released it and a diet version to 9 test markets in early 1992.

After the drink faired well in test markets, a huge marketing campaign was developed and Crystal Pepsi was released nationwide in April 1992 to huge fanfare. The commercials were shown during Super Bowl XXVII. The Van Halen single “Right Now” was used on the commercials and the tagline for the soda was, “You’ve never seen a taste like this!”

Many people don’t remember, but Crystal Pepsi did well the first year grabbing almost 1% of the soda market. It did well enough to cause Coca-Cola to develop and release Tab Clear in December 1992. In 1993, however, the interest waned. Crystal Pepsi didn’t taste any different than regular dark Pepsi, which confused people because clear colas usually have a citrus taste. Sales dropped off and Pepsi pulled it off shelves. It was quickly reformulated into Crystal by Pepsi which was still colorless, but had a citrus taste like everyone expected.

By then, though, the damage was done and Pepsi canceled the soda in America in late 1993 – 1994. Crystal Pepsi continued to sell well in Europe for another year or so but was eventually canceled there also. The Crystal Clear concept quickly became a joke and was mocked on late night talk shows and eventually in a classic Saturday Night Live commercial, Crystal Gravy (via Redux).

PepsiCo quickly moved on and Crystal Pepsi eventually became a shameful footnote in the company’s history (a la New Coke).  As a special promotion, however, Pepsi did release a Pepsi Clear in Mexico in 2005. Presumably, it used the same Crystal Pepsi formula.  I’m unsure if it had a citrus flavor or not.

More soda history:
1. Misunderstood: The Saga of New Coke
2. The Story of OK Soda
3. Pepsi Patio: The Secret Origin of Diet Pepsi

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14 Responses to “A Crystal Pepsi Retrospective on its 20th birthday”

  1. 20 years? This makes me feel old. I remember liking Crystal Pepsi but wonder if it might have just been the novelty of it? We are definitely a Coke household now! Well…minus Mountain Dew.

  2. nytetrayn Says:

    I’d love for them to bring back Crystal Pepsi as a limited time thing, a la Throwback and certain Mtn Dew flavors.

  3. dougmccoy38 Says:

    I wish they’d bring this back. I loved it, though for some reason I thought it was called Pepsi Clear instead of Crystal Pepsi. I remember it was supposed to tasted exacly like Pepsi. At least that’s what I and my friends thought (maybe Pepsi didn’t actually make that promise; can’t remember). I also called it “Pepsi Stealth” because the Stealth Bomber had just been revealed to the public.

  4. Pepsi Stealth. I like that, doug. Haha.

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