The Coca Cola brand is arguably one of the most popular in the world. But not everything that Coke touches turns to gold, as the company has had some massive failures over the years. Keep watching to discover the Coca Cola products that went completely flat.
New Coke is pretty much the Mt. Rushmore of product failures, and it’s actually the reason why Coca Cola has something called the “Celebrate Failure Award.” In 1985, in an effort to boost sales and refresh its classic soft drink, Coke retired its tried-and-true recipe and introduced a new formulation that they dubbed “New Coke.” But what the brand hoped would be lauded with cheers from fans was instead met with a public outcry in the form of protests and petitions. Less than three months after New Coke was launched, it was pulled from shelves and replaced with the classic formula. “Sweeter, bolder, better.” “You’re insane.” Luckily for Coca Cola, when New Coke was ditched for the original version, fans rejoiced and flocked to stores to quench their classic soda fix. Sales ultimately received a boost and Coca Cola returned to being the number one soda brand, ousting Pepsi Co, which had taken the top spot temporarily.
Dasani in the UK
Dasani water may be a staple on grocery store shelves throughout the United States, but just because a product works well in one place doesn’t mean it will be just as successful worldwide. Coca Cola learned this the hard way when they tried to introduce Dasani in the United Kingdom. The blunder was two-fold. First, this “filtered water” wasn’t from a crystal-clear spring in the mountains of an unkissed tropical forest, but rather from a tap in Sidcup, southeast London. When people in the UK realized they were essentially being sold tap water, they scoffed at the thought of paying for such a thing. The other issue was that Coke was marketing the water as “bottled spunk.” In the United States, “spunk” can mean spirit, courage, or determination, but in Britain, it’s a slang word for semen. That’s not exactly a well-planned marketing ploy that’s likely to boost sales of water. In less than a year, Coca Cola discontinued selling Dasani in the UK. For many, this endures as a running joke for how it’s possible to butcher introducing a new product to market when you lack the appropriate knowledge of the culture that you’re introducing it to.
The history behind Tab Clear is actually a bit of counterintuitive marketing genius. Coca Cola actually intended for its 1992 release of the product to fail. “Under the right circumstances, a producer could make more money with a flop than he could with a hit.” Its sole purpose was to derail the launch and possible success of rival company Pepsi Co’s release of Crystal Pepsi. Back in the early 90s, clear drinks were all the rage, but there weren’t any colas on the market with the crystal-clear look. When Pepsi decided to launch Crystal Pepsi, the idea was to offer a full-flavored, full-calorie drink to the public, but without the dark tint common to most colas. Tab Clear was Coca Cola’s solution. It was a calorie-free diet soda intended to taste like other popular colas but without coloring or the stigma of being “diet.” When Tab Clear was released ahead of Crystal Pepsi, the intent was to blur the lines and confuse customers just enough to hurt Crystal Pepsi’s sales. Crystal Pepsi wasn’t a diet soda, although there was a diet version, but if it was perceived as being equal to Tab Clear, it was possible that fewer people would buy it. Add to that the fact that Coke was convinced that the clear-drink trend would fizzle out, so it was thus worth sacrificing Tab Clear to prevent Pepsi from having a successful product launch. Within a year, Crystal Pepsi and Tab Clear were both kicked to the curb. In this case, failure actually equaled success.
Sometimes drinks with a popular fan base simply don’t make financial sense for companies to continue producing long-term, and that’s exactly what happened with Sprite Remix. The original Tropical-flavored drink was released in 2002, and its initial success led to the addition of two more flavors: Aruba Jam and Berryclear. Unfortunately, this line’s diehard following wasn’t large enough to last more than a few years, and Coke killed production in 2005. That said, sometimes discontinued products that a solid following can return, if temporarily. In 2016, Coca Cola decided to offer a limited-time release of Sprite Tropical Mix. Fans were able to quench their tropical desire once again, and with any luck, Coca Cola will decide to offer some more limited-time, or permanent, re-releases in the future.
Coca Cola Blak was a coffee-flavored Coke that was released in the United States in 2006 after its initial introduction in France. But it may have been a drink that was introduced before its time. At least that’s what Nancy Quan, the company’s Chief Technical Officer, told CNN Business in 2019. Or the issue may have been the fact that the American version used high fructose corn syrup and aspartame as sweeteners, as opposed to the regular sugar used in the international version. Either way, this sweet coffee drink that supposedly tasted a bit like coffee-flavored candy didn’t last even two years in the U.S. However, Coke hasn’t given up completely on coffee-flavored sodas. In 2019, in the wake of promising sales in other countries like Australia and Spain, the company announced that it was considering re-introducing Coca Cola Blak under a new name: Coca Cola Plus Coffee. The main differences, other than the packaging, are that the new version includes more coffee and a higher quantity of caffeine than regular Coke. And if all goes well, another difference will be that it enjoys some long-term success. With the rise in popularity of energy drinks in the 21st century, it was only a matter of time before Coca Cola responded with its own hybrid energy-slash-soft drink.
The 2005 release of Vault was Coke’s direct answer to Pepsi Co’s Mountain Dew. It even featured a citrus flavor and green packaging to draw consumer interest. And when Pepsi expanded the Mountain Dew line to include Mountain Dew: Code Red, Coca Cola played along, sending Vault Red Blitz to stores in 2007. While Vault ended up having a longer lifespan than many other failed Coke products, its sales ultimately couldn’t continue justifying the cost of production. So after six years of moderate success, Coke pulled the plug. That said, with Vault enjoying more popularity than most failures, there’s always a chance that Coke could decide to offer it again on a limited-time basis in the future. “Get to it!”
If you were a teenager in the 90s, there’s a good chance you remember the release of OK Soda in 1995. And if you were that perfect age, there’s even a decent chance that you were a fan. It’s possible that you were won over more by the marketing than the drink’s actual taste, which was pretty much Coke’s strategy anyway. The company was hoping to appeal to the disillusioned and emo young people who were also fans of such TV shows as Daria and My So-Called Life. Maybe OK Soda had a good flavor, maybe it didn’t. We honestly don’t remember, but the black-white-and-red cans featuring bold artwork still stand out in our minds as the reason we kept grabbing them off the shelves of the local mini-mart. It was clear very quickly, though, that OK Soda wasn’t fit for a nationwide release. Sales simply weren’t strong enough to maintain a presence in the limited markets where it was originally sold. By 1997, OK Soda had completely disappeared, leaving just a few internet fan pages and collectors to tell the tale that everything would be OK. “In the meantime, please enjoy that feeling of OK-ness, which is only restricted to those who drink our beverage.”
Coca Cola C2
Coca Cola C2 was a product destined to fail. There’s no other way to put it. Its sole purpose was to appeal to men ages 20 to 40 who might want to drink diet soda, but wouldn’t do it for the fear that doing so would be perceived as “feminine.” Coca Cola first delivered C2 to store shelves in 2004. It was like a hybrid between a diet drink and a non-diet drink, with a flavor that was more or less like classic Coke. It featured half the calories and half the carbs of a regular Coke, and it was pushed hard with a $50 million advertising campaign. But that’s a campaign that many people simply don’t remember because it was a massive failure. Men weren’t interested in making the purchase, as it just wasn’t different enough or appealing enough to give it a try. And women who wanted a low-calorie drink could already opt for zero-calorie Diet Coke. C2 was quickly pulled from shelves after it became clear that it didn’t help grow market share. But true to their mission, Coke executives applied the mistakes made from the release of C2 and tried again a year later with Coke Zero. It offered a similar taste with zero calories, and it can still be found on shelves today. Coca Cola C2 wasn’t the only time that Coke faced similar problems with reception and brand differentiation.
Coca Cola Life was another lower-calorie, but not calorie-free, product sweetened with natural sweeteners like cane sugar and stevia. The idea was to position this soda as a healthier option than full-calorie sodas like classic Coke and artificially sweetened diet sodas like Diet Coke. Coca Cola Life has 45 percent fewer calories than the full-calorie soda. And in blind taste tests, it often performs better than other low-calorie or no-calorie sodas. Unfortunately, low-calorie options like Coca Cola Life appear to simply dilute the market of buyers interested in lower-calorie or no-calorie sodas, rather than attracting new customers. Essentially, people who buy Coca Cola Life are the same people who already buy products like Diet Coke or Coke Zero. Unsurprisingly then, Coca Cola Life was pulled from shelves in the UK in 2017 and was phased out of its original markets of Argentina and Chile the same year. While it can still be found in the United States, it hasn’t been performing well. It may just be a matter of time before it gets the ax once again. Over the years, Coke has released a number of different drinks with the “Plus” signifier for the sake of pointing to health-focused additives. That seems like a pretty obvious strategy to dupe people into thinking they’re receiving some sort of health benefit when what they’re really doing is just drinking more soda.
Diet Coke Plus Green Tea
Anyone consuming soda and imagining that it’s rife with health benefits is either sadly misinformed or purposely delusional. Either way, sometimes these marketing ploys work, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they work in specific markets while failing in others. That’s exactly what happened with Diet Coke Plus Green Tea, which was released in Japan in 2009. This was right at the peak of the green tea health craze, with practically all beverage companies looking for ways to include “antioxidant-rich!” on its packaging. And Coca Cola Plus Green Tea was right there in the mix to play along. Unfortunately, the company made a major misstep in the taste department and the drink was largely rejected. It never even made a debut in the United States.
Over the course of Coca Cola’s history, there have been a slew of flavored cokes introduced to the market. Sometimes they last a year or two. Sometimes they last longer. Many are pulled from shelves almost immediately. With the exception of standouts like Cherry Coke, flavored offerings tend to eventually go by the wayside following some initial interest. The list of casualties includes the likes of Diet Coke with Lemon, Diet Coke Vanilla, Coca Cola with Lime, Diet Raspberry Coke, Coca Cola Black Cherry Vanilla, Coca Cola with Orange, and Vanilla Coke. And that just scratches the surface! To add to the heap, 2019 saw the release of Coca Cola Cinnamon, which sounds especially terrible. “That’s gross. I’m sorry.” There have also been a slew of new Diet Cokes with flavors like Zesty Blood Orange and Ginger Lime, all designed to appeal to millennial consumers. We’ll wait and see if these new offerings can buck the trend of failure, but based on what history tells us, we have our doubts. While not every flavored Coke product has failed, it’s just a matter of time before most of them disappear from shelves.