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How Many of These Classic 80s Drinks Did You Try?

John Bridges is a published author of history, and politics. His doctorate is in criminal justice.

Lifesavers Soda: Epic Fail

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During the 80s, many well-established brands began branching out in new ways. Jello found itself creating pudding pops; almonds crept into M&M’s; and Lifesavers came in jelly form, mini-form, and finally, in the form of soda. The drink developed in the 1980s. Those who tried it know it was very tasty. It was a little thicker than other sodas and very sweet. Consumers did not gravitate towards the product. There was a preconceived notion that the soda was nothing more than a liquid version of candy. It remains an iconic product of the 80s and represents the desire of many established companies to accept the risk of expanding into new product lines.

The Pepsi Challenge: Staring Down a Giant

Pepsi has always been a distant second in sales to Coca Cola. During the 80s, Pepsi felt it could catch up with Coca Cola sales by catering to the X-Generation, “the Pepsi Generation.” They invested enormous amounts of money to hire superstar Michael Jackson to promote their product. Their commercials were designed to look like music videos that were popular at that time. You may have heard the rumors that the boy dressed like Michael Jackson in the commercial is Alfonso Ribiero (Carlton on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). The rumor is true.

As part of its campaign included the infamous Pepsi Challenge commercials. Although test stations were set up around the country, often with lack-luster monitors, those in the commercials were actors. Nonetheless, the campaign was gaining traction. People were discussing the commercials and the product. Pepsi was making slow but steady gains on Coca Cola’s market. They further promoted their product as the future while Coca Cola was still focused on the nostalgia of the past.

OK Soda: Don’t Be Fooled

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Not everyone was enamored with the Pepsi Challenge. There was a distinct movement amongst young, college students, away from any corporate products. They gravitated towards products they thought were anti-corporate, hip, and approachable. Enter OK Soda.

Its marketing was unpretentious; the packaging was indicative of it being a counter-culture product. The taste was comparable to Coke or Pepsi. Sales were going well for the young “company,” until the truth came out.

The can itself, had the ironic message, “Don’t Be Fooled.” The reason this is ironic is, OK soda was not a small, hip, young start-up company at all. It was Coca Cola. Coca Cola wanted to chip away at Pepsi’s attraction with the younger generation, and thus OK Soda was born.

New Coke v. Classic Coke: The Original Fake News

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Coca Cola was tired of the Pepsi Challenge campaign and needed a way to counter all the talk about Pepsi being a better product. One of the hugest risk ever taken by a company was about to occur. Coca Cola announced it was going to change its formula to produce a product more like Pepsi.

The public lost its collective minds. Protests were planned. Petitions were sent. Everybody was talking about “New” Coke. After a short time, the company claimed to be responding to the public demand for the original Coca Cola, which was returned labeled as “Classic Coke.” They suggested that they were going to let the public decide which product was better. People took sides, and everyone was talking about the two Coca Colas. What nobody was talking about anymore, Pepsi. This was the true purpose of this campaign. Coke had no intention of changing its formula, in fact as far as anyone knows, “New” Coke and “Classic” Coke may have been the exact same product.

Jolt: Before There Were Wings

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Jolt Cola is a carbonated soft drink originally produced by The Jolt Company, of Rochester, NY. Initially, its distribution was in the Northeast. While other sodas were scrambling to remove sugar and caffeine, Jolt Soda found its niche market and promoted their product by boldly stating it had all the sugar and twice the caffeine. It was the first “energy” drink created and was targeted towards students and young professionals, stressing its use as a stimulant in a similar manner as today's energy drinks.

The quality of the product slipped as it became manufactured in a larger factory, new recipe, and national distribution. Competition from multiple true energy drinks heavily impact sales. As shown in the picture, the original Jolt Cola came in a brown bottle, and many college students were pulled over by police suspecting they were drinking and driving. After many complaints, the company changed the bottle.

Bartle’s and Jaymes Wine Coolers, One and Only

This product used only quality ingredients. Wine, Seltzer, and Juices. The company prided itself on quality, and customers loved the product even though it sold at a premium price. Delicious as it was, it also packed a surprising punch. Other companies tried to emulate the product but did not match the quality. Those companies were focused on profiting by using malt liquor instead of quality wine. While they were able to compete by substantially cutting the cost of the product, it was not the same as the original. When wine products were hit by a major tax (but not malt liquor), Bartle’s and Jaymes had to choose between compromising the quality of their product or doubling the cost of the product. They chose to keep the integrity they built the company on and closed their doors.

Do You Really Miss Pina Coladas?

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The power of the media is amazing. Even if you do not like the Pina Colada song, the drink became a sensation in bars across America during the 80s. Blended drinks became the norm. Rum companies benefitted greatly by the boom as they diversified their product lines to include flavored rums. Smaller companies began competing with the giant Bacardi.

The craze spilled over into other products, from soft drinks to candy to muffins.

Just Curious

© 2018 Dr John Bridges

Comments

Dr John Bridges (author) from Portland, OR on July 18, 2018:

I never really notice much of a difference between Pepsi and Coke. For some reason though, the tiny glass bottle of Coke always tasted better to me.

Tanzil Hossain on July 18, 2018:

Its a informative article . We should follow this . But actually I like coca -cola more than pepsi . Its refreshed my mind .

Dr John Bridges (author) from Portland, OR on July 14, 2018:

yes most store brands are actually made by major manufacturers, it is just a matter of figuring out which ones. a taste test is the best initial ay and then google "who makes..." to find out the rest of the story

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on July 14, 2018:

How interesting. I'm guessing Sam's Club is like the generic RC so they can afford to charge less. Also, Walmart probably buys in bulk to gets a discount.

Dr John Bridges (author) from Portland, OR on July 13, 2018:

Zulma, RC does have a unique taste. A few months back I decided to try the Walmart Brand of Cola (Sam's Club). I was surprised how much I liked it and immediately recognized it as RC. Turns out Cott, the company that now makes RC also makes Sam's Club....so it is the exact same soda....only much cheaper

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on July 13, 2018:

I always thought Pepsi wasn't as sweet and kind of flat.

I forgot all about RC. I drank it once in a while for a change of pace.

Dr John Bridges (author) from Portland, OR on July 13, 2018:

Zulma, Thank you for your comments. I also remember the quick changes in products from Coke and Pepsi, and it really was too many at once. The funny part for me was...I could not tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, and I always thought RC (Royal Crown) Cola was better than either.

Lisa Jane, Thank you as well. I am trying to learn more about the distribution of this product. I know I saw it in Boston and Seattle...I am not sure though if it had limited markets or not.

Lisa Jane from Washington on July 13, 2018:

Great article. I don't remember the lifesaver soda.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on July 13, 2018:

I remember when Coke started coming out with different varieties. Too many, I thought. It was easier just to order a Pepsi. lol

Never heard of the LifeSavers soda. They should stick to what they do best. I live in the UK and we don't have LifeSavers here. I miss it.

Nice hub. Thanks for the memories.

Dr John Bridges (author) from Portland, OR on July 13, 2018:

Thanks Linda. I had fun with it. I am not sure all of them were available outside the US...or sometimes it is offered under a different brand name in Canada. I know when Pepsi Blue came out, it could not be sold outside the US because of a certain dye it had in it.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 12, 2018:

This is an interesting and informative article. I remember some of the drinks that you've mentioned, but not all of them. I enjoyed reading about the beverages.

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