Soft drink brands like Coca-Cola have launched numerous products with different flavors and colors over the years, but there is none that is as controversial as the Crystal Pepsi drink, which was first released by PepsiCo in the United States and Canada in 1992. Despite being able to follow the trends of the 1990s, PepsiCo’s Crystal Pepsi drink was a massive failure due to many reasons. To know more, here is the story of the infamous Crystal Pepsi soft drink.
The Clear Craze
Before we get into the details of the Crystal Pepsi Drink, let’s talk about the craze or trend that inspired PepsiCo to create the crystal version of its iconic soda. The inspiration behind the Crystal Pepsi Drink was the “clear craze,” a marketing fad or trend that began in the late 1980s and ended in the early 2000s. True to the name of the fad, the clear craze is all about products that have a crystal-clear appearance, and one of the products that truly embodied this fad is the clear version of the Nintendo Game Boy, a handheld video game console.
The clear craze is inspired by the “99 and 44/100 percent pure” marketing campaign that was launched by the personal care brand Ivory for their bath soap.  However, the clear appearance of various objects or items has already been present since the late 1930s with the introduction of Plexiglass, a synthetic polymer that looks like glass but is actually more durable. By the 1980s, telephones with transparent or translucent exteriors became more popular. After telephones, personal computers and video game consoles also got versions that have transparent casings.
Conceptualizing the Crystal Pepsi Drink
The concept for the Crystal Pepsi drink began in the early 1990s when the consumer research team at PepsiCo determined that consumers wanted a healthier variety of soda from what was available during that time. The internal research team had already developed more than 1,000 product concepts, but none of those concepts were suitable for the ’90s trends in the soft drinks market.
In order to create a healthier variety of the classic Pepsi drink, the company’s food technologists tried to remove the traditional caramel coloring of the soda, which added a few amounts of calories to the drink. A replacement for the caramel colors was modified food starch, which then gave the clear appearance of the experimental Pepsi soda.
There were about 3,000 formulations that were created for the clear Pepsi drink, and the version that the company had decided to launch was the one that had 134 calories, which is 20 calories less than the classic Pepsi drink. In November of 1991, PepsiCo unveiled that they were working on a clear or colorless version of their original product.
Crystal Pepsi was launched in the test markets of Colorado, Dallas, Salt Lake City, and Providence on April 13, 1992. Fortunately, Crystal Pepsi was able to get positive reviews from consumers and testers in the mentioned areas.
The Launch of Crystal Pepsi
Crystal Pepsi was officially launched in the United States on December 14, 1992. During the first year of its production, it was able to get $474 million (equivalent to about $960 million in 2022) in sales for Crystal Pepsi alone.
Interestingly, on the same day that PepsiCo launched Crystal Pepsi, Coca-Cola released Tab Clear, which was the latter company’s entry into the clear craze. Decades before the release of Tab Clear, Coca-Cola had already developed a clear soda. Coca-Cola’s first clear soda was created in the 1950s and was a secret one-off that was used as political favor between former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Soviet Union. The clear cola was developed to be disguised as vodka.
Two years before the launch of Crystal Pepsi and Tab Clear, there was already a soda manufacturer in Canada that released their own clear cola, and the name of the cola was “Canadian Spirit.” The Canadian Spirit drink was tested in the Canadian cities of Toronto and Montreal, as well as the American cities of New York, Washington, and Boston.
There were also other companies that launched crystal or clear versions of their products in 1992, one of which is Palmolive, a personal care brand that released three colorless products, namely a clear dish soap, a crystal Rembrandt mouthwash, and a colorless Softsoap liquid soap. There was even a colorless beer that was released by a brewery and beer company called Miller Brewing Company. The colorless beer, which was called Miller Clear, was released only in Austin, Texas, and Richmond, Minneapolis.
Marketing the Crystal Pepsi Drink
When the Crystal Pepsi drink was released in 1992, PepsiCo marketed the product as a caffeine-free alternative (often called “clear alternative”) to regular soft drinks. Then, the slogan that the company used for many advertisements of Crystal Pepsi was, “You’ve never seen a taste like this.”
One of the most notable ads for Crystal Pepsi was released during the Super Bowl that occurred in 1993. The commercial embodied the “edgy” vibes of the 1990s, as it had a rhino and an astronaut, and it also featured a song by rock band Van Halen titled “Right Now.” 
Following the appearance of the commercial in the Super Bowl, Crystal Pepsi became a nationwide fad in the United States, with news channels reporting about the drink’s popularity among the younger generation.
The Failure of Crystal Pepsi
A year and a few months after the release of Crystal Pepsi, the sales of the drink began to plummet despite having a relatively effective marketing strategy in 1993. The Crystal Pepsi craze faded as people began to realize that the drink was just similar to the original Pepsi drink in terms of flavor or taste. In addition, Crystal Pepsi was also priced higher than the original Pepsi, and because they have similar tastes, people would prefer the cheaper option.
Moreover, there were also issues with the manufacturing and distribution of Pepsi Crystal, as PepsiCo had trouble manufacturing sufficient quantities of the soda that could meet the demands in 1993. In addition, there is also a problem with the clear appearance of Pepsi Crystal, as the drink’s color is sensitive and can turn yellow when it is exposed to too much sunlight.  So, it is sometimes inevitable that Crystal Pepsi drinks that are distributed to faraway states and cities in the US can have slight to severe discoloration once they actually reach the stores.
Due to very low sales in the first months of 1994, PepsiCo decided to discontinue Crystal Pepsi. Despite being released at the same time as Coca-Cola’s Tab Clear, Crystal Pepsi became more infamous in history for cashing in on the clear craze and failing to actually get long-lasting profits from the fad. However, it is also important to note that Tab Clear was discontinued in 1994 because of low sales, and it is clear through the discontinuation of Crystal Pepsi and Tab Clear that the clear soda trend died out quickly.
Crystal Pepsi Revivals
Due to how infamous Crystal Pepsi was, many people still talk about it up to this day. The constant conversations about Crystal Pepsi led to many people requesting that the drink be revived.
The first revival of Crystal Pepsi occurred in 2005 when it was sold in Mexico for a limited time. Because of the success of Crystal Pepsi in Mexico, PepsiCo decided to file for trademarks on two product names, namely “Pepsi Clear” and “Diet Pepsi Clear,” in order for them to get sole rights for using the Crystal Pepsi name in the future.
The demand for Crystal Pepsi was revived again in 2015, which was one year after Coca-Cola reintroduced one of the drinks that they released in the 1990s, Surge. Several online campaigns were launched in 2015 to bring back Crystal Pepsi, and thanks to the petitioners and fans of the clear drink, PepsiCo decided to bring back the infamous soda in 2016, although it was only released in the United States and Canada. Crystal Pepsi was revived two more times, specifically in 2018 and for its 30th anniversary in 2022.
While Crystal Pepsi isn’t available in stores as of 2023, PepsiCo is offering other flavors for its soft drink lineup. Here are some of the PepsiCo products that you can buy online:
- Original Pepsi Cola Soda Pop, 7.5oz Mini Cans (6 Pack)
- Diet Pepsi Cola, Caffeine-Free, 12 Fl Oz Can (Pack of 18)
- Pepsi Mango 12oz Cans (15 Pack)
- Pepsi Wild Cherry Soda, Fridge Pack Bundle, 12 fl oz, 36 Cans
- Pepsi Zero Sugar, 16.9oz Bottles (6 Pack)
Crystal Pepsi would go down in history as one of the most popular soft drinks, even if it failed in terms of sales when it was released in the 1990s. Because of how infamous the drink is, it is already expected that PepsiCo would continue to revive and re-release the Crystal Pepsi drink numerous times in the future.
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