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Fizzy fail! Take a Swig of Defunct Soda

22 October 2009 One Million Watts 17,346 views 7 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

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: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: Apparently Pepsi wanted in on all the hate mail and lawsuits Coke got for New Coke, and 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 a 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.

OK. 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: 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.

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: 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.

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.

PatioMello 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: 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: 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.

Paxton Holley

Click here to drink in the majesty of a full gallery of shamed sodas!

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  1. […] I begin looking at a bunch of Frankenstein books, I want to mention to everyone that I have a brand new article up at Monkey Goggles where I talk about spectacular soda disasters. Of course I mention New Coke […]

  2. Did you forget the late lamented Like Cola from 7-Up from back in the 80s?

    I used to drink it all the time.

  3. There’s some really bizarre flavor combinations that came out that were weird. And nasty.


  4. Great read. I wasn’t even aware of a couple of these items. I have very vivid memories of the debacle that was “New Coke.”

    Do they have to be discontinued to count as “fail!”? What if they simply fall into the category of, “Who in the hell drinks this stuff, anyway?”

  5. I feel no list of failed sodas is complete without Pepsi Kona – the coffee flavored Pepsi.

  6. Er – Coke Zero is actually not related to Coke C2 (unlike C2, Zero is zero calories); Coke Zero is Diet Coke made to taste like Coke Classic. It goes like this: Coke made New Coke sweeter, to compete with the sweeter flavor of Pepsi at a time when people seemed to prefer it. Likewise, Diet Coke is essentially a diet version of New Coke, and was never formulated to taste like the older style of Coke (now known as Coke Classic). While New Coke failed, Diet Coke (remember, to this day it tastes like New Coke) succeeded. Coke Classic emerged from the whole mess, but there was no reason to change the Diet Coke recipe. Recently the company decided that they should release a Diet Coke that tastes like Coke Classic, and Coke Zero was born.

    I think the whole thing is proof that people’s tastes are dominated by their perception, not their tongue. If New Coke was so bad, Diet Coke should have been rejected too. If Coke Classic is really so much better, Diet Coke drinkers would all switch to Coke Zero. Or something like that.

  7. Brad, you are right to a point.

    Diet Coke was formulated and released in 1983 (2 years before New Coke) to taste sweeter like Diet Pepsi because Diet Pepsi was the best selling diet drink at the time. Diet Coke’s sales went through the roof and outsold all other Coke drinks. Seeing the opportunity, Coke decided to reformulate Coke proper to taste sweeter just like Diet Coke, essentially changing Coke to be a full calorie version of Diet Coke. This failed because, exactly as you said, people’s perceptions clouded their taste buds.

    So Diet Coke was formulated to taste sweet like Diet Pepsi, thereby making it not a diet version of Coke. New Coke was a full calorie version of Diet Coke. Coke Zero is a zero calorie version of Coke (as you said). I never intimated that Coke Zero has anything to do with Coke C2, but it was meant to take over the spot in the soda lineup that Coke C2 vacated.

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