Updated from March 1, 2015 with news about Crystal Pepsi's return.
There were no social media outlets such as Facebook(FB) - Get Report and Twitter(TWTR) - Get Report back in the early 1990s to discuss a new, clear soda being released by cola king PepsiCo(PEP) - Get Report .
But now, the since-discontinued Crystal Pepsi, with its cult social media following, is poised to make a splash on today's social scene. On Tuesday, PepsiCo announced a contest that will award 13,000 Crystal Pepsi fans a six-pack of the notorious clear soda. The only way to sign up for the sweepstakes, to be held on December 10 and 11, will be via the Pepsi Pass app.
Each 16 oz. plastic bottle of Crystal Pepsi will boast 200 calories and 55 grams of sugar, similar to a standard bottle of Pepsi brown cola. While the taste profile of the latest iteration of Crystal Pepsi will be the same as the original, it will have a little more caffeine, according to PepsiCo marketing director Linda Lagos.
"There has been a big movement on social media the past year to bring Crystal Pepsi back," explained Lagos, adding that the product's re-release hopes to tap into an interest in certain items from the 1990s. Lagos declined to say if Crystal Pepsi would be available nationwide in 2016.
Crystal Pepsi initially debuted in select U.S. markets in April 1992, then went nationwide in 1993. Its release marked the start of the clear cola wars -- in December 1992, rival Coca-Cola(KO) - Get Report launched a clear version of Tab cola. Sales fizzled out quickly, however, and Crystal Pepsi was subsequently pulled from the market in 1994.
Ironically, the limited return of Crystal Pepsi arrives as consumers gravitate toward another clear carbonated liquid, albeit one that's sugar-free and zero-calorie -- namely, flavored sparkling waters. The sparkling water category in the U.S. saw its sales surge 16.2% to more than $1.4 billion for the 52 weeks ending July 12, according to the latest data from IRI.
Meanwhile, the initial buzz surrounding Crystal Pepsi's second act begs the question: to spur a little growth, why don't some of the world's biggest food companies pay a visit their archive rooms?
The list of discontinued products from major food companies is almost endless. Remember black cherry vanilla flavored Coca-Cola? Or how about the Whaler, a giant, fried fish sandwich from Burger King (part of Restaurant Brands International(QSR) - Get Report ) used to make?
For whatever reason, products such as these, with plenty of research hours and marketing dollars behind them, were discontinued. But that doesn't mean they deserve to be permanently left for dead in their original form or not spruced up to meet current consumer eating preferences and then relaunched with a marketing blitz.
McDonald's did just that by bringing back Chicken Selects earlier this year. Execs at Nike(NKE) - Get Report must have also gotten the memo, having created a major buzz on Facebook in March by announcing it was bringing back a pop culture favorite, the Nike Cortez. The shoe was designed in 1972 by Nike founder Bill Bowerman, and was famously worn by Tom Hanks in the movie Forrest Gump.
TheStreet takes a look at three items that some other consumer giants should consider resurrecting this year.
Flavored fries would offer some differentiation in the market for Burger King.
1. It's time for Burger King to shake up its fries, again.
For a limited time in 2002, Burger King sold Shake 'em Up fries. The goal of the product was straightforward -- elevate the flavor profile of the simple, charge people more and bank even more money on the already nicely profitable french fry. Burger King achieved this by giving consumers powdered cheese in packets to be spread on the oily fries in the bag, and then shaken up. Instant cheese fries.
Fast-food product packaging has come a long way since 2002, so the resurrected Burger King fries could receive special holders to serve as shakers. Further, the availability of a variety of powdered seasoning choices has increased beyond cheese. In re-launching Shake 'em Up fries, Burger King would open an opportunity for Vines and Twitter pics of folks shaking up their fries, which is akin to free real-time marketing.
Burger King has already shown an appetite to dabble in flavored fries. In August, the chain began offering Fiery Chicken Fries in all of its U.S. restaurants. The spicy new companion to Burger King's popular chicken fries took a year to develop, and is coated with a super-spicy breading of cayenne and black pepper.
Now it's time to go beyond the spicy. Sea salt and vinegar flavored fries, anyone?
GatorGum certainly has some nostalgia attached to its name.
2. PepsiCo should also chew on a re-release of GatorGum.
PepsiCo shouldn't just stop with a resurrection of Crystal Pepsi.
There is a product missing from Gatorade's expanding product portfolio of sports drinks and energy chews -- something for an athlete to consistently chew on while on an hour-long run or undertaking a grueling Crossfit weightlifting session. With Gatorade fresh off celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, it should consider the reintroduction of 1980s convenience store staple GatorGum in 2016 to further solidify its market share position.
GatorGum was introduced around 1976 and sold up until the early 2000s. It was the energy chew before the modern-day energy chew. In reviving GatorGum, PepsiCo could sprinkle in a touch of caffeine (it did add more caffeine to Crystal Pepsi...) to cater to the nation's obsession with the ingredient, as well as upgrade the packaging and gum size. For example, many gum offerings from Wrigley have resealable packaging -- GatorGum came in simple tear-it-open-and-chew type packaging.
And the U.S. gum industry could use a shot of adrenaline that a GatorGum marketing blitz would provide. According to research firm Euromonitor, gum volumes are expected to decline by 11% from 2014 to 2019 as consumers look to reduce their sugar intake and gravitate towards mints.
Bringing back classic cereals may help sweeten up sales for cereal makers.
3. Throwback cereals would entice millennials.
The hurried U.S. population has become a nation of snackers, anything from nut bars to 100-calorie Greek yogurt cups. In turn, that is creating an entire generation of Americans not growing up eating plain old cereal out of a bowl.
Euromonitor estimates that that sales of breakfast cereals will decline by 8% from 2014 to 2018. So that leaves major cereal producers such as General Mills and Kellogg's(K) - Get Report trying to solve the dilemma of how to get people eating breakfast cereal again. So far, there has only been a major focus on removing artificial colors and ingredients from cereal, instead of creating buzzy new products or tapping into former favorites.
One way for cereal makers to create some buzz could be to follow the lead of General Mills(GIS) - Get Report and reintroduce discontinued cereals for a limited time, along with retro cereal boxes -- and, upon re-launch, plaster Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with "throwback" pictures of the cereal or boxes.
In December, General Mills brought back French Toast Crunch, a popular seller that was launched in 1995 but discontinued in 2006. "When we broke news of French Toast Crunch, it crashed our blog site on multiple occasions," Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of U.S. Retail Business Jeff Harmening told TheStreet earlier this year. He added, "we do bring products back from time to time -- every year, around Halloween, we bring back Booberry, Frankenbury and Count Chocula. It has been phenomenally successful."
Two retro cereals that make logical sense for a re-release from General Mills -- Jurassic Park Crunch and Dunk-A-Balls.
General Mills unveiled Jurassic Park Crunch in 1997 after sequel to the original Jurassic Park: The Lost World. It was basically Lucky Charms except the marshmallows were shaped like dinosaurs. With the latest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise grossing big money at the box office this year, General Mills has an opportunity to bring the cereal back for a limited time promotion in 2016.
Dunk-A-Balls were pitched as the "breakfast of champions, for kids" and were simply crunchy balls of frosted wheat. Indeed there could be a tie-up worth exploring with a millennial National Basketball Association star (Stephen Curry, anyone?), one with a huge Twitter following who remembers eating the stuff and wouldn't mind his name on a cereal box. This may prove especially lucrative in front of the 2016 Summer Olympics, where team USA will be vying for the gold on the hardwood floor.