A 2016 Crystal Pepsi 20oz bottle, as released in Canada
|Country of origin||United States|
|Introduced||1992-1993; 2015 (giveaway only); 2016-present|
|Variants||Diet Crystal Pepsi, Crystal From Pepsi, Pepsi Clear|
|Related products||Pepsi, Pepsi Blue, Tab Clear|
Crystal Pepsi is a clear cola soft drink made by PepsiCo. It was sold from 1992 to 1993 in the United States and Canada, with brief re-releases in both countries in 2015 and 2016; it was also sold for a short time in Australia. Crystal Pepsi was sold for a longer time in Europe during the early 1990s.
In the early 1990s, a marketing fad equating clarity with purity began with the remake of Ivory soap from its classic milky solution; the idea spread to many companies, including PepsiCo. Crystal Pepsi was marketed as a caffeine-free "clear alternative" to normal colas, equating clarity with purity and health. Its marketing slogan was "You've never seen a taste like this."
In 1992, PepsiCo introduced Crystal Pepsi to test markets in Denver, Sacramento, Dallas, and Providence, and the product generated a positive response. Pleased with the results, PepsiCo launched the cola on April 12, 1992, and began to sell it nationwide in 1993. 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. Another marketing ploy was to give out full sized sample bottles with the Sunday paper deliveries such as the Boston Globe in Massachusetts. 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.
Initial sales were good but quickly fell. By fall 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 titled Crystal From Pepsi, but that was short-lived as well.
According to Coca-Cola Chief Marketing Officer Sergio Zyman, Tab Clear was an intentionally "suicidal," "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."
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 re-releases
In September 2014, following a Facebook campaign by consumers, The Coca-Cola Company re-introduced 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, spearheaded by an online competitive eating personality, Kevin Strahle; also known as The L.A. Beast, generated enough interest for a call-in and email campaign, featuring 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 Purchase, New York headquarters 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, which indicated that Crystal Pepsi could be making a comeback.
In November 2015, Pepsi hinted on their 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, hitting Canadian stores on July 7, and American stores on August 8, 2016. Unlike the original release in the 1990s, the drink, as released in 2015 and 2016, contains caffeine. In addition to caffeine, the 2015/2016 formula also contains sodium benzoate, a preservative not found in the original formulation.
In October 2016, Pepsi re-released 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.
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