The 1990s seemed to be a hotbed for perplexing beverages. It’s safe to say the market was oversaturated (hah!), but some of these drinks really stood out as, well, overly gimmicky. Here are eight of the most missed, most despised, and most just plain strange beverages of our past.
8 – Crystal Pepsi
Right now… it’s Crystal Pepsi!
This is like the Zima of the cola world—a clear beverage that no one wanted. Playing on the “clear = pure” rationale of the 1990s, Pepsi sucked the color out of their popular soda, marketed it as Crystal Pepsi, and ruined that Van Halen song for the world. Crystal Pepsi tasted like Pepsi, but its lack of color threw everyone off. Besides, what’s the point of having a beverage that tastes just like a beverage you already produce?
7 – Capri-Sun
In order to make itself more memorable, Capri-Sun’s juice is housed inside a bag instead of a box, kind of like a mini juice version of Canadian milk. The gimmick proved successful and was adopted by other Kraft brands like Kool-Aid. Sure it’s a neat concept, but I always end up with juice in my lap after stabbing the straw clean through the pouch.
6 – New Coke
Do we really need to go here? I won’t get into the background, but let’s just accept that New Coke happened in 1985. It was even brought back in 1992 as Coke II and stuck around until 2002. Conspiracy theories surround the issue even today. Was this just a marketing gimmick to increase sales? Or was it a stunt to cover the Classic soda’s change from regular sugar to the dreaded high fructose corn syrup? Either way, those Coke people are crafty. After Coke brought their “original” formula back, it outsold the pants off of Pepsi.
5 – Fruitopia
Hippies + Coca-Cola Company = Fruitopia
While it’s just another juice drink, Fruitopia still gained significant footing in the beverage market rather quickly thanks to its hippie branding. The drink wasn’t (and isn’t—it’s still available in Canada and Americans can now get their Fruitopia on thanks to Minute Maid) bad, in fact it tasted pretty good. It also came in glass bottles that had little hidden messages in the intricate designs. Drinking from a glass bottle felt pretty swanky, so having to downgrade to those cardboard milk containers, plastic bottles, or even cans isn’t so thrilling when you want to drink it today.
4 – Jolt Cola
Jolt’s deal was that it had twice the caffeine of regular sodas, making it an early energy drink, and when the company was re-branded in 2009, it embraced that energy drink model. Before going along with the energy drink craze, Jolt was just another soda in the 7-11 refrigerator case. To a high school kid walking home from school, it didn’t do too much damage, but it sure helped us feel cool. Much later, in 2005, Jolt introduced battery-shaped aluminium cans as it prepped for that final leap into energy-dom.
3 – Josta
In 1995, Pepsi introduced what would be the first energy drink from a major soft drink company—Josta. Around the same time, I had just been introduced to the Internet and for some reason ran across rumblings of Josta and knew I needed to have it in my life. Unfortunately, the beverage wasn’t available in Canada. At that time, it was only being test-marketed in certain areas, one of which was a place in Michigan that my best friend was vacationing in. I demanded she bring a case back for me. It was cool, there was a panther or something on the can. It was made with guarana, which is either some dietary supplement derived from a plant or bat turds, I forget. But what did it taste like? Ass. I was disappointed in my foreign soda and never trusted the Internet again. I still get nostalgic for it from time to time, though. If you’re insane and want Pepsi to bring back this monstrosity, check out the Save Josta Campaign.
2 – Zima
Zomething Douchy. Also: “nice arms” will not get you laid.
It seems like Zima hasn’t been around in decades, but it only met its demise in 2008. I was not of drinking age when it came out in 1994, but even at 11 I knew the beverage was a joke. Until just now I always assumed it was some weird vodka cooler, similar to Smirnoff Ice. In fact, Zima was just crappy beer filtered through charcoal and re-flavored with citrus.
1 – Orbitz
Orbitz is notorious for its high WTF factor—little jelly balls suspended in flat flavored water. Soon after it hit the shelves in 1997, Orbitz was banished to soft drink hell and its website was taken over by a travel company. I will give Orbitz credit for their original flavors—Vanilla Orange, Black Currant Berry, Raspberry Citrus, Pineapple Banana Cherry Coconut, Blueberry Melon Strawberry, and Rootbeer-Hamburger-Watermelon-Papaya. Strangely enough, I actually liked Orbitz. Perhaps it was because I was just at that age where I thought I looked cool drinking some crappy fruit soda with pink balls floating around in it. How wrong I was, but I’ve since learned. I still won’t even touch bubble tea.
Did we miss your favorite gimmicky beverage? Leave a comment below and let us know about it!