Crystal Pepsi Is Poised for a Comeback

PepsiCo Hints That Its 1990s-era Clear Cola Is Returning

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Crystal Pepsi appears headed for a comeback, that much is clear. But details on when and how the 1990s-era cola will return remain murky.

The clear cola was first introduced in 1992 but lasted only a few years. Despite its short lifespan, the drink apparently gained a loyal following of consumers who have lobbied PepsiCo to bring it back.

On Tuesday, the cola giant sent its strongest signal yet that Crystal might soon be available again by responding to one of its biggest fans, competitive eating star Kevin Strahle. Mr. Strahle, who goes by the name L.A. Beast on Twitter, tweeted an image of a message he said he received from Pepsi that stated: "We definitely hear you and all your followers and we think you'll all be happy with what's in store."


A PepsiCo spokeswoman confirmed the authenticity of the message to Ad Age. She declined to provide other details, but said "we think Crystal Pepsi fans are going to be happy with what we have planned."

The apparently imminent launch could follow Coca-Cola's move late last year to bring back Surge, a 1990s-era citrus-flavored soda. The company in September made the brand available for sale on Amazon.com, pointing to lobbying from fan groups such as one called the "The Surge Movement," which has more than 200,000 Facebook fans.

It is unclear if Pepsi plans to make a similar e-commerce play, or if Crystal Pepsi will get wider distribution. In the early 1990s, the launch was backed with a $40 million ad budget and major hoopla, "only to fizzle among consumers who had grown disenchanted with clear sodas," Ad Age reported in 1994. At the time Pepsi sought to spark new interest by reformulating Crystal with a citrus taste.

Crystal's likely return comes after soda brand Zevia in May announced it was going "color-free" across its 17-flavor portfolio. Zevia -- which touts itself as a "zero calorie, naturally sweetened soda brand" -- had previously used caramel colors in its colas, ginger root beer, ginger ale, Dr. Zevia and cream varieties. Caramel coloring has fallen out of favor with some consumers.

Zevia also announced that it had received certification as being GMO-free. "Shoppers want four things from the sodas they drink: flavors, bubbles, sweetness and enjoyment," Zevia CEO Paddy Spence said in a statement. "But they don't want artificial sweeteners, artificial preservatives, artificial flavors, GMO ingredients and caramel color. We are the first brand to deliver on the core promise of the soda category, without the ingredients that consumers don't want."

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