Crystal Pepsi

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Crystal Pepsi 20oz.jpg
20 oz in the US in 2016
TypeClear cola
ManufacturerPepsiCo
Country of originUnited States
IntroducedApril 13, 1992; 30 years ago (1992-04-13) (test markets)
Discontinued1994; 28 years ago (1994) (and re-releases)
VariantsDiet Crystal Pepsi, Crystal From Pepsi
Related productsPepsi Blue, Tab Clear

Crystal Pepsi is a clear cola soft drink made by PepsiCo. It was initially released in the United States and Canada from 1992 to 1994. Online grassroots revival efforts prompted brief re-releases throughout the mid-2010s. It was briefly sold in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Its flavor resembles standard Pepsi, without caramel color, reportedly making it taste less "acidic".[1][2]

History[edit]

Canadian 20 oz. bottle in 2016

Background[edit]

A global marketing fad in the 1980s and 1990s called the Clear Craze equated clarity with purity, reaching basic retail markets with the reintroduction of Ivory soap with a marketing slogan of "99 and 44/100 percent pure".[3] Meanwhile, soft drink sales boomed in the 1980s with popularization of diet drinks, but in 1991 slowed to a 1.8% growth rate.[4] Pepsi-Cola North America CEO Craig Weatherup was ambitiously internally restructuring the company while launching a multi-faceted development and marketing plan to expand as a "total beverage company".[5] This included the fast-growing and expandable New Age beverage market, with established competition from Clearly Canadian (reportedly having "built a new market in two years"[6]), Nordic Mist, Snapple,[5] and the waning Original New York Seltzer.[6] PepsiCo was reportedly "a lot more free-thinking and willing to make errors ... [already having] made some very good errors".[5]

Development[edit]

PepsiCo's internal research already had "1,000 different product concepts", but its consumer research demanded a healthier variety of cola, which was the number one soft-drink segment[6] at 60% and yet slowing.[5] Food technologists knew that food color strongly affects flavor perceptions, associating light flavors with light colors. Pepsi's traditional caramel coloring adds body and flavor, and was replaced with "modified food starch" for body with a clear look.[6] PepsiCo devised 3,000 formulations of a new clear drink, under consumer testing.[4] A 12 ounce serving of Crystal Pepsi has 134 calories versus Pepsi's 154 calories—20 fewer.[7]

On April 13, 1992,[8] Crystal Pepsi was launched in test markets of Dallas, Providence, Salt Lake City, and Colorado[9] to a positive response.[10][11][5] One month in test markets showed an unusually and unexpectedly strong launch due to product uniqueness and unprecedented consumer awareness.[12] In Colorado, interviews of 100,000 customers further revealed demand for Diet Crystal Pepsi, which was launched there in October.[9]

Full launch[edit]

Crystal Pepsi was launched nationwide in the US on December 14, 1992.[13] In its first year, it captured one full percentage point of U.S. soft drink sales, or approximately US$474 million (equivalent to $889 million in 2021).[14] Coca-Cola followed by launching Tab Clear on December 14, 1992.[13] The Coca-Cola Company had produced a clear cola in the past, produced as a secret one-off made as a particular political favor between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Soviet Union in the 1940s. Clear Coca-Cola, named White Coke, was produced in order to disguise the beverage as vodka.[15]

By late 1993, Crystal Pepsi was discontinued, and the final batches were delivered to retailers during the first few months of 1994. Several months later, a reformulated citrus-cola hybrid[16] called Crystal From Pepsi was briefly released.[17]

In 2005, Pepsi Clear was sold in Mexico for a limited time. On August 22, 2008, PepsiCo filed for trademarks on the product names "Pepsi Clear" and "Diet Pepsi Clear".[18]

Marketing[edit]

Crystal Pepsi was marketed as a caffeine-free "clear alternative" to normal colas.[10] Its official slogan was "You've never seen a taste like this".[3]

Gary Hemphill, public relations manager for Pepsico Inc, said "The basic philosophy behind Crystal Pepsi is this: Crystal Pepsi is not Pepsi with the color stripped out. It's a totally new product. It tastes differently than Pepsi [... which we married] to some of the attributes of the so-called New Age type products: lighter and less sweet tasting, clear, caffeine-free, all natural flavors, and no preservatives."[19] A senior vice president relayed expectation of forging "an entirely new category that really transcends New Age".[4][13] Test marketing suggested that 80% of sales would come from non-Pepsi consumers.[19] The goal was to capture 2% of the $48 billion retail soft drink market by the end of 1993, or about $1 billion, but without harming the flagship Pepsi product.[5]

The $40 million marketing campaign included a teaser ad during the television coverage of the inauguration of the US President and $7 million of Super Bowl advertisements.[5][19] 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.[20] This advertisement was parodied by Saturday Night Live as Crystal Gravy.[21] Full-sized sample bottles were distributed with the Sunday paper deliveries such as the Boston Globe in Massachusetts.[10]

According to Coca-Cola's chief marketing officer, Sergio Zyman, Tab Clear was released at the same time, as an intentional "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."[22]

Yum! Brands chairman David C. Novak is credited with introducing the Crystal Pepsi concept. In a December 2007 interview, he reminisced:

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.[23]

Reception[edit]

In its first year, Crystal Pepsi captured 1% of U.S. soft drink sales, or approximately $474 million. Beverage Digest said "This is another instance where Pepsi has really shown leadership to strike out in a new direction."[14] Crystal Pepsi was named Best New Product of the Year for 1992 by Richard Saunders International, based on consumer preference polls among 16,000 new grocery products, scoring higher than any other beverage in the poll's history. Robert McMath, editor of Brand Week, said that "new sells [and] clarity equals purity" but he doubted the strategy of positioning such a new and different product directly alongside the old flagship product.[19]

Consumer revival[edit]

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 media about the return of Crystal Pepsi.[24] In March 2015, an online grassroots campaign to bring back Crystal Pepsi began. The following month, a second, separate petition was led by an online competitive eating personality, Kevin Strahle, also known as The L.A. Beast, who had 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,[25] 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[26] on June 15 and 16, 2015.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33]

The interest from this campaign led to an official response to Strahle 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."[34][35] In mid-2016, Crystal Pepsi was released across the United States and Canada, promoted with a retro styled website and marketing video, including The Crystal Pepsi Trail browser game as an officially licensed parody of the classic The Oregon Trail.[36][37][38]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Merevick, Tony. "Taste Test: We Tried the New Crystal Pepsi". Thrillist. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  2. ^ Fama, Amanda. "Where Can I Buy Crystal Pepsi? Our Favorite '90s Soda Is Finally Back". Elite Daily. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Garber, Lawrence L. Jr. (2003). "Color as a Tool for Visual Persuasion". In Linda M. Scott (ed.). Persuasive Imagery: A Consumer Response Perspective. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 313. ISBN 0-8058-4202-0. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Wolk, Martin (April 14, 1992). "Clear Pepsi aims to find own place". The Commercial Appeal. Memphis, Tennessee. Reuters. p. B8. Retrieved August 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Zinn, Laura (January 31, 1993). "Pepsi's Future Becomes Clearer". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on May 21, 2017. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d "Crystal". The Cincinnati Post. Cincinnati, Ohio. May 8, 1992. p. 9C. Retrieved August 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "The Crystal Pepsi taste test: Uh-huh". The Cincinnati Post. Cincinnati, Ohio. May 8, 1992. p. 1C. Retrieved August 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Business Digest". New York Times. April 13, 1992. Archived from the original on April 13, 1992.
  9. ^ a b "Pepsi to test diet version of clear cola". Kansas City Star. Kansas City, Missouri. Bloomberg Business News. October 20, 1992. p. D-16. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c Zyman, Sergio. The End of Marketing as We Know It. Harper-Collins, 1999. ISBN 0-88730-983-6
  11. ^ Business Digest and Bloomington, Illinois. The Washington Post, April 14, 1992
  12. ^ Fahey, A. (May 18, 1992). "Crystal Pepsi sales surge as test markets clear shelves". Advertising Age. Vol. 63, no. 20. p. 3-56. ISSN 0001-8899. Retrieved August 1, 2022 – via EBSCO.
  13. ^ a b c Bryant, Adam (December 15, 1992). "Coke Adds a Clear Cola To Its 'New Age' Stable". The New York Times. p. D5. Archived from the original on February 9, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  14. ^ a b Janofsky, Michael (March 2, 1993). "Pepsi Tries New Diet Cola Abroad". The New York Times. p. D4. Archived from the original on February 7, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  15. ^ Hebblethwaite, Cordelia (September 11, 2012). "Who, What, Why: In which countries is Coca-Cola not sold?". BBC News. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  16. ^ "PEPSI SEES CITRUS APPEAL IN ITS CRYSTAL". July 18, 1994.
  17. ^ Brody, Aaron L and John B Lord. Developing New Foods for a Changing Marketplace, p62. CRC Press, 2000. ISBN 1-56676-778-4
  18. ^ Tanner, Steve (August 11, 2009). "Is Pepsi Clear the return of Crystal Pepsi?". BevReview.com. Archived from the original on May 13, 2013. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  19. ^ a b c d "Soft-drink bottler makes a case for Crystal Pepsi". The News Journal. Wilmington, Delaware. p. 35. Retrieved July 30, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  20. ^ VCRchivist. "Crystal Pepsi launch ad - 1-minute version - 1993" – via YouTube.
  21. ^ Saturday Night Live. "Crystal Gravy - SNL" – via YouTube.
  22. ^ Denny, Stephen (2011). Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry. ISBN 9781591843832.
  23. ^ Flaim, Kate Bonamici (December 19, 2007). "Winging It". Fast Company. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  24. ^ Rick Aristotle Munarriz. "Coke's Surge Surges Back; Will Crystal Pepsi Be Revived Next?". DailyFinance.com. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  25. ^ Addady, Michal (August 8, 2016). "Crystal Pepsi Is Back on Shelves Today". Forbes. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  26. ^ "L.A. Beast- Facebook". facebook.com. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  27. ^ ABC News. "You Can Thank This Guy If Popular '90s Drink Crystal Pepsi Returns". ABC News. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  28. ^ "'Crystal Pepsi' may return in response to online campaign". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  29. ^ E.J. Schultz. (June 9, 2015). "Crystal Pepsi Is Poised for a Comeback". adage.com. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  30. ^ MAJOR BREAKING NEWS - Bring Back Crystal Pepsi. June 8, 2015. Retrieved October 2, 2015 – via YouTube.
  31. ^ Riley, Charles; Alesci, Cristina (June 11, 2015). "Remember Crystal Pepsi? It might be coming back". CNNMoney. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  32. ^ "Crystal Pepsi Might Be Making a Comeback! - Us Weekly". usmagazine.com. June 11, 2015. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  33. ^ "PepsiCo poised to revive 1990s flop Crystal Pepsi". cbsnews.com. June 11, 2015. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  34. ^ Ledbetter, Carly (June 11, 2015). "Crystal Pepsi Might Be Making A Comeback Thanks To One Man's Excitement". Huffpost. Huffington Post. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  35. ^ Whitten, Sarah (December 9, 2015). "Crystal Pepsi is back, but there's a catch". CNBC. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  36. ^ "Crystal Pepsi Returns for Summer 2016". Prepared Foods. BNP Media. July 12, 2016. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  37. ^ "Crystal Pepsi: The 'clear' '90s hit makes a return". CNBC. June 30, 2016. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  38. ^ "Crystal Pepsi". PepsiCo. Archived from the original on August 8, 2016. Retrieved August 30, 2022.