Back in the early 1990’s there was a big marketing push for more “natural” products, much like today where manufacturers are going “organic” by removing HFCS and chemicals from their offerings (who knew that “Made with Real Sugar” would become a selling point?).
Around 1992, PepsiCo decided to try something different. Why not remove the caramel coloring & caffeine from their flagship soda and market it as “crystal-clear”? Sure it still had HFCS, but with the consumer clamoring for more “pure” options – this could work. Spending millions of dollars on advertising after the initial test run of the product was a success, “Crystal Pepsi” was on its way to be a winner and possibly position itself to overtake Coca Cola.
From bus wrap ads to even a free bottle with the Sunday paper, they pulled out all the stops. Even going so far as to license Van Halen’s “Right Now” song as the anthem and debuting a commercial similar to the music video during Super Bowl XXVII:
(notice the glass bottles)
The commercial received the SNL treatment with a parody for “Crystal Gravy”. People initially grabbed hold of the new product, but then started to fall away after finding that “Crystal Pepsi” didn’t taste the same. Similar to the same fate of “New Coke”, where it was rumored that Coca Cola was trying to mimic the flavor of Pepsi (there are some that believe this to be a ploy to replace expensive sugar with HFCS in the original Coca Cola recipe when they brought “Coke Classic” back onto store shelves).
By 1994, “Crystal Pepsi” was no longer in production. They tried to hang onto the brand by reformulating it into a diet citrus drink called “Crystal from Pepsi” but that faltered as well.
In 2005, they did a limited run of “Pepsi Clear” that was for sale in Mexico only but nothing more came about until the internet juggernaut. A massive online campaign was launched to reintroduce one of Coca Cola’s old brands – “Surge” – back in 2014 and succeeded in bringing back that nostalgic drink from the 1990’s.
An online competitive eating personality, “L.A. Beast”, helped to start a campaign to bring back “Crystal Pepsi” in March of 2015. PepsiCo responded with a contest debuting their new “Pepsi Pass” rewards program (similar to Coca Cola’s “MyCokeRewards”) with the giveaway of 13,000 6 packs of the sweet elixir. June of 2016, they announced that there would be a limited run of “Crystal Pepsi” for 8 weeks in Canada & the United States.
And now behold:
Tweaking the formula just a bit for today’s consumer (including the addition of caffeine), 20 ounce bottles are available in many retailers and convenience stores. Of course money-grabbing vultures are trying to cash in online by offering the bottles for often over 10 times the cost. I was able to find this beauty at my local Speedway gas station for less than $2.
I don’t recall what it tasted like 24 years ago. It tastes similar to regular Pepsi, but there is something else to it. Not a bad taste at all, just a little different. Not sure if it’s a mind game because you eyes see clear liquid and so you mind/taste buds expect a citrus-y flavor. It’s good, I’ll buy it and drink it in moderation as long as I can find it locally. I hope the demand shows PepsiCo that “Crystal Pepsi” has found its era, the era of Facebook, YouTube, & hunger for nostalgia of the 1990’s…