"Right now, nature's inventing better stuff than science" read the tag line, as a bold piano motif gave way to the screeching vocals of not-David Lee Roth. The year was 1993, Kurt Cobain was still alive, and Donald Trump had just married Marla Maples. And PepsiCo decided that it was pretty clear what the country was thirsty for: Crystal Pepsi.
Upon its test release in 1992, the clear "healthy" soda received a positive response in Dallas, Sacramento, Denver and Providence. Initial sales in '93 were good, but the "clear" fad was short lived and soon people realized that this was just another soda (although we did get a classic SNL parody from it). But you have to admit that Super Bowl ad was pretty memorable:
By early 1994, Pepsi was shipping out its last batches of Crystal Pepsi. An attempt at reformulation was met with disinterest, and the product disappeared from shelves. Life went on (well, not for Cobain, but you get my meaning). Crystal Pepsi seemed destined to fade away, just a footnote to the history of a simpler time.
With the rise of an internet culture that worships at the altar of nostalgia, though, it isn't much of a surprise that there have been vocal "Bring Back Crystal Pepsi" campaigns for years now. Bottles of the stuff began appearing on eBay, and the click-thirsty geniuses of YouTube were ready with videos of them drinking the aged pop. Matters came to a head in the summer of 2015, when supporters held gatherings near PepsiCo headquarters.
Figuring that if people wanted to part with their hard-earned cash for their sugar water, they'd be happy to let them, PepsiCo executives teased a relaunch of the beverage in early 2016. America took notice (when not arguing over the colors of a certain dress), and the excitement was palpable. Or at least noticeable.
Then, last week, it happened. A buddy of mine posted a picture on Facebook of him holding a brand-spanking-new bottle of Crystal Pepsi. The bottle shape is different than the '92-'93 version, but the logo is almost identical. He mentioned having found it at a local Dollar General, so the next time I found myself near one, I stopped in. Sure enough, there it was. I've since seen it at Kroger.
So how was it? Utterly fine. Decent. Sweet and cold and very much a soda. Did it taste like the old version? I honestly don't remember what the old version tasted like. Everybody says it's just Pepsi without the brown coloring, and it did have that sweet, rather-off flavor of Pepsi. I suppose the thing to do is a blind taste test with this stuff and regular Pepsi to see if there's a difference. Maybe I'll do that this weekend. But probably not.
Arkansas Times Recommends is a series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week. In anticipation of Arkansas Times' Festival of Ideas this Saturday at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, we recommend things that make us think.
by Megan Blankenship, Benjamin Hardy, Michael Roberts, Seth Eli Barlow and Stephanie Smittle