Crystal Pepsi 20 oz. bottle, as released in the U.S. in 2016
|Country of origin||United States|
|Introduced||April 13, 1992 (test markets)|
December 1992 (nationwide)
December 10, 2015 (online giveaway)
August 8, 2016 (retail re-releases in the U.S. & Canada)
|Discontinued||1994 (first run)|
|Variants||Diet Crystal Pepsi, Crystal From Pepsi|
|Related products||Pepsi Blue, Tab Clear|
Crystal Pepsi is a soft drink made by PepsiCo. It was first sold in Europe in the early 1990s. The United States and Canada received it from 1992 to 1994, with brief rereleases throughout the mid-2010s. It was briefly sold in the UK and Australia. The product's original market life was sabotaged by competitor Coca-Cola, in a "kamikaze" plan which sacrificed its Tab Clear product in order to end them both. Crystal Pepsi is notable for a fanatical revival by the public decades later, leading to a corporate response with these re-releases.
In the early 1990s, a marketing fad called the Clear Craze equated clarity with purity. This began with the remake of Ivory soap, whose marketing slogan had already been "99 and 44/100 percent pure", from its classic milky solution. The "clear" idea spread to many companies and product types including PepsiCo's development of a clear cola. Crystal Pepsi was marketed as a caffeine-free "clear alternative" to normal colas. Its marketing slogan was "You've never seen a taste like this".
On April 13, 1992, PepsiCo introduced Crystal Pepsi to test markets in Denver, Sacramento, Dallas, Providence, and Grand Rapids, and the product generated a positive response. Pleased with the results, PepsiCo began to sell the cola nationwide in December of that year.
In its first year, Crystal Pepsi captured a full percentage point of U.S. soft drink sales, approximately $474 million. Coca-Cola followed suit by launching Tab Clear on December 14, 1992. That company's previous clear cola had been a secret one-off made as a particular political favor between Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Soviet Union in the 1940s, to disguise the American beverage as vodka, and was named White Coke.
By late 1993, Pepsi pulled the drink off the market, and the final batches were delivered to retailers during the first few months of 1994. Pepsi returned several months later with a reformulated citrus-cola hybrid called Crystal From Pepsi, but that was short-lived as well.
According to Coca-Cola's chief marketing officer, Sergio Zyman, Tab Clear was an intentionally "kamikaze" effort to create an unpopular beverage that was positioned as an analogue of Crystal Pepsi in order to "kill both in the process". The "born to die" strategy included using the poor-performing Tab brand rather than Coke, labeling the product as a "sugar free" diet drink to confuse consumers into thinking Crystal Pepsi had no sugar, and marketing the product as if it were "medicinal". Zyman said "Pepsi spent an enormous amount of money on the brand and, regardless, we killed it. Both of them were dead within six months."
A large marketing campaign was launched, for which the company invented the world's first photo-realistic, computer-generated bus wrap printing. A series of television advertisements featuring Van Halen's hit song "Right Now" premiered on national television on January 31, 1993, during Super Bowl XXVII. This commercial was parodied by Saturday Night Live with their "Crystal Gravy" commercial. Full-sized sample bottles were distributed with the Sunday paper deliveries such as the Boston Globe in Massachusetts.
It was a tremendous learning experience. I still think it's the best idea I ever had, and the worst executed. A lot of times as a leader you think, "They don't get it; they don't see my vision." People were saying we should stop and address some issues along the way, and they were right. It would have been nice if I'd made sure the product tasted good. Once you have a great idea and you blow it, you don't get a chance to resurrect it.
Revival and rereleases
In September 2014, following a Facebook campaign by consumers, The Coca-Cola Company reintroduced the soft drink Surge, leading to speculation in the public and amongst media about the return of Crystal Pepsi.
In March 2015, an online campaign to bring back Crystal Pepsi began. The following month, a second and completely separate petition was led by an online competitive eating personality, Kevin Strahle, also known as The L.A. Beast, who made a 2013 viral video of himself drinking a 1990s vintage bottle of Crystal Pepsi. This generated enough interest for a telephone and email campaign, garnering around 37,000 Change.org petition signatures, tens of thousands of Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram tagged comments, 15 billboards erected around the Los Angeles area, and a commitment to ride a mobile billboard truck at Pepsi's headquarters in Purchase, New York with a gathering of supporters at a park nearby on June 15 and 16, 2015. The interest from this campaign led to an official response by PepsiCo. on June 8, 2015: "We've had customers ask us to bring back their favorite products before, but never with your level of enthusiasm and humor. We're lucky to have a Pepsi superfan like you on our side. We definitely hear you and your followers and we think you'll all be happy with what's in store. Stay tuned."
In November 2015, Pepsi hinted on its Twitter page that the beverage would make a comeback. In December 2015, Pepsi announced that fans of the drink could win one of 13,000 six-packs of the beverage by entering a sweepstakes via a mobile application or online at Pepsipass.com between December 10 and 11. Winners selected during the following week would receive the beverage in time for Christmas.
On June 30, 2016, Pepsi announced that the drink would be making a second return, reaching Canadian stores on July 11, and American stores on August 8, 2016. Unlike the original release in the 1990s, the drink as released in 2015 and 2016 contains caffeine and sodium benzoate, a preservative.
In October 2016, Pepsi rereleased the drink in the United States again for a limited time exclusively on Amazon.com through its Prime Pantry service, sold in 8 packs. On November 1, 2016, Pepsi announced that the drink would be making a third return for 2017. On July 19, People magazine released an article stating that Crystal Pepsi would be back for what was claimed as being the final time the drink would be rereleased, on August 14, and that Crystal Pepsi-themed music festivals would be held at baseball stadiums around the US with performers Busta Rhymes and Salt-n-Pepa.
The drink was re-released in August 2018, once again being claimed as being the "last chance" to purchase the drink. Unlike previous re-releases which occurred in both the United States and Canada, the 2018 re-release was exclusive to the United States.
In March 2019, the drink was re-released in Canadian stores for a limited time.
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