The Crystal Pepsi Comeback of 2018

Updated on September 4, 2018
FatFreddysCat profile image

From my "Random Slice of Life" file...experiences, advice, happenings, and glorious results of a misspent youth.

Crystal Pepsi's 2018 Return Announcement on Facebook
Crystal Pepsi's 2018 Return Announcement on Facebook | Source

What Year Is It?

Remember Crystal Pepsi? The unique ultra-clear cola drink was expected to take the world by storm when it was launched in 1993 ... but it never caught on with the soda-buying public, in spite of a massive advertising blitz that included a Super Bowl commercial and the use of Van Halen's hit single "Right Now" as the brand's official theme. In the end, Crystal Pepsi turned out to be the biggest soda-biz failure since the "New Coke" debacle of 1985, and it disappeared from the marketplace less than a year after it was introduced.

...but a quarter century later, the cry from Crystal Pepsi's dedicated cult following became too much for Pepsi to ignore. In response to thousands of Tweets, e-mails, YouTube videos and Facebook messages, Crystal Pepsi returned to North American store shelves for a limited time in the summer of 2016 and its comeback was met with much rejoicing (and hoarding)! Now it's back again for another go-round in the summer of 2018... so grab it while you can!

Crystal Pepsi "Right Now" commercial (1992)

Vague Memories...

I was curious to try Crystal Pepsi again when it returned in 2016, because I had only the vaguest memories of what it tasted like. I do vividly remember the massive advertising push that accompanied its roll-out in early 1993, though. I was working at a K-Mart store in suburban New Jersey at the time and therefore I was right in the middle of Crystal Pepsi's national "launch," which coincided with Super Bowl XXVII. To mark the occasion, a team of Pepsi representatives even came to our store and created a massive football-themed display in our main aisle built out of 12-packs of their products, with Crystal Pepsi "goal posts" at each end. Thanks to such absurdly huge store displays, as well as tons of radio and TV commercials and print ads, PepsiCo's brand awareness team worked overtime to let America know that Crystal Pepsi was coming, and that we should be ready for the Next Big Thing in carbonated beverages.

...unfortunately, they didn't seem to spend as much time testing the actual product. When I finally did get to try Crystal Pepsi, I would say I was "underwhelmed." Though it was described as a "clear cola," I don't recall it having much of a cola flavor to it - if memory serves, it tasted like fizzy sugar water. It was OK, I guess, but I wouldn't have walked across the street for one unless it was a hot day and they were giving them out for free.

Crystal Pepsi apparently sold fairly well at first due to curiosity seekers trying it for the first time (like me), but it soon became obvious that there weren't many repeat customers. Over those next few months at K-Mart, I witnessed the swift and terrible fall of Crystal Pepsi first hand.

One of my daily jobs at the store included re-stocking the four soda machines at the front entrance before we opened in the morning. To refill the machines, I would pull product from a pallet of soda 12-packs that was located in the back stock room. Over time the supplies of the other sodas would dwindle and I'd tell my manager, "You need to order more Coke," "You need to order more Mountain Dew," etc., etc. -- but not once did I ever have to tell him "order more Crystal Pepsi," because the supply in the stock room never moved. I NEVER had to re-load the Crystal Pepsi slots in either of our two Pepsi machines. Seriously, NO ONE was buying the stuff.

Though it came into the market with a bang, Crystal Pepsi definitely left with a whimper. One day the Pepsi people returned to our store, removed every trace of it from the shelves, and Crystal Pepsi was never spoken of again -- except as a punch line. I joked that the only ones who profited from it were the members of Van Halen, who I'm sure were paid handsomely for the use of "Right Now."

Kevin "L..A. Beast" Strahle shares the good news with his Twitter followers in June 2016.
Kevin "L..A. Beast" Strahle shares the good news with his Twitter followers in June 2016. | Source

Right Now!

Like many famous failures, Crystal Pepsi's cult following grew in the years following its historic crash-and-burn. People began paying outrageous sums for vintage unopened bottles of it on eBay, and then posted YouTube videos of themselves drinking them - sometimes with vomitous results. When the Coca-Cola company re-introduced their '90s Mountain Dew knockoff "Surge" to the marketplace in 2015 after an internet fan campaign, it surely did not go unnoticed by the head honchos at Pepsi. Combined with the fact that '90s nostalgia in general is hot right now, a Crystal Pepsi comeback must have seemed like a no-brainer.

Pepsi actually began testing the waters for this revival in late 2015, thanks to the tireless efforts of competitive eater and YouTube personality Kevin Strahle, aka "The L.A. Beast." A lifelong Crystal Pepsi fan, the Beast began a grassroots movement to revive the brand in 2015, starting with a petition on change.org which soon garnered more than 30,000 supporters. The Beast and his followers sent Pepsi thousands of e-mails, Tweets, and Facebook messages demanding Crystal Pepsi's return, put up billboards around Los Angeles and even recorded "The Crystal Pepsi Song," which contains the lyric "All I want is a Crystal Pepsi to share with you... I haven't been the same since '92." In response to this fan demand, PepsiCo produced a limited batch of Crystal Pepsi six-packs and gave them out as prizes in a November 2015 sweepstakes to promote the Pepsi mobile app. The response was so positive that they announced the next limited run of Crystal Pepsi would hit stores in August 2016 and would only be around for eight weeks.

"The Crystal Pepsi Song"

The Crystal Pepsi has Landed!

My 9 year old son and I found the "new" Crystal Pepsi in the cooler at our local Walgreens store during the summer of '16. Naturally, I bought us each a bottle. After his first few swigs, my son couldn't quite express how he felt about it. I believe his exact words were "Dad, it tastes... weird!" However, it finally clicked with him after a few more gulps, andby the time he got to the bottom of the bottle he was declaring that he "loved" it. I told him that we'd pick up some more next time we went to the store, and advised him to enjoy it while he could, since it was supposed to be a limited release.

Revisiting Crystal Pepsi after 20+ years was a strange feeling for me as well - after all, I never expected to see the stuff again! It went down nicely, was pretty damn tasty and was extremely refreshing on a hot summer's afternoon. I can't say I ever truly missed Crystal Pepsi while it was gone, but now I'm saying "Welcome back!!" and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on some of the 2018 edition.

Enjoy!

So now that Crystal Pepsi is back for a return engagement in 2018, what other failed '90s products deserve another shot at the brass ring? How about the Apple "Newton?" The McDonald's Arch Deluxe? WebTV? The XFL? Lay's potato chips with Olestra? I've recently learned that the dreaded "clear alcohol beverage" Zima has already been revived... yuck, I think I'll pass on that one.

© 2016 Keith Abt

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    • profile image

      Al 

      2 weeks ago

      Oh also, the not so old Pretzel Crust Pizza from Little Caesars. I truly and deeply miss that thing

    • profile image

      Al 

      2 weeks ago

      I gotta say (and I know I’m probably one the few) I used to LOVE another Pepsi product. Pepsi Kona! That stuff was absolutely amazing!!

    • profile image

      Penny 

      3 weeks ago

      If I saw it in the 90s I don't remember it. I saw some in a cooler at my local WinCo store and bought one bottle. I'm a coke drinker but have been known to enjoy a pepsi once in a while. I loved it. It didn't taste like coke or Pepsi. It had its own flavor. I wanted more, went looking for it, and can't find it anywhere. I'm very disappointed. I thought I'd found a great new drink and instead what I found was another stupid limited edition. I drank real sugar vanilla Pepsi religiously while it was around, then they took it away. Pepsico sucks. They tease us with great products then remove them.

    • profile image

      Andi 

      4 weeks ago

      We need to have McDonald's Pizza back. it was the most delicious pizza I've ever had and it was at the same year Crystal Pepsi was on the market in 1993.

    • FatFreddysCat profile imageAUTHOR

      Keith Abt 

      6 weeks ago from The Garden State

      Is it really? Bleah! Haha. I'll pass.

    • profile image

      Ryan Powers 

      6 weeks ago

      Zima is back. Last year and this year as a limited summer release.

    • profile image

      Mikey 

      18 months ago

      Thanks to the LA beast getting crystal Pepsi back

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 

      2 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Great article. Thanks for writing.

      Namaste

    • Kristin Shay profile image

      Kristin Shay 

      2 years ago from Illinois

      Oh Yeah, I used to love this soda, it was perfect and I only bought that, until it went away. Happy it is returning .

    • Kyriaki Chatzi profile image

      Kyriaki Chatzi 

      2 years ago

      Words are not enough: Great Hub!!!!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Keith....I have zero recollection of "Crystal Pepsi," ever having been introduced to our markets at all. I don't purchase nor consume any soda whatsoever but I'm really confused as to how I missed this entirely.

      You did a great job on this hub. Looks like you included everything that needs to be known by Crystal Pepsi fans as well as those who are eager to give it a try this time.

      (Aren't ALL sodas "fizzy sugar water" of various flavors? ) LOL...Paula

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