Friday, November 6, 2009

20 Food Innovations That We Could Have Done Without

Food and beverage companies have long fought the battle of keeping their consumers happy and their products fresh. Evey once in a while, in random acts of desperation, the scheming minds behind our foods can think a bit too far outside the box. Below you'll find 20 food and drink blunders from the ages - lessons that most of us were dupped into trying -- and, sometimes liking. They are twenty inexplicable food ventures that we felt somewhat obliged to bring attention to, just to ask a collective, "Really?":

Crystal Clear Pepsi

It was a sign of the times; a clear drink to signify purity and infer improved health. Market tested in 1992 and officially released in all its glory in 1993, Crystal Clear Pepsi was backed with Van Halen theme songs and prime-time Superbowl advertising but lacked anything amazingly different in the taste department. Considering the flavor was simply more of the same (but now lacking caffeine), the people wanted their trusted brown Pepsi Cola returned in one piece – they got it.

McRib Sandwich

It’s no wonder that this item hasn’t found a steady place in the world; coming and going like an apparition since 1981. Though it had all the makings of a sure-fire success (a boneless pork patty shaped to look like it has bones, barbecue sauce, onions and pickles served on a six-inch roll), after testing well in Nebraska and other mid-west states, it was obvious that the world wasn’t ready for this fabricated rib-based delight...even if from time to time we have odd (Pavlovian-related?) cravings for them...

Funky Fries

Approaching the ranks of a Fact, Americans love French fries. Ore-Ida decided we liked them enough to party with them by introducing Funky Fries; chocolate, cinnamon and blue-colored French fries – it only made sense. They ran the bold new product with the highest of expectations and a swarm of satisfied customers was never the case. The Funky Fries were honorably retired in 2003; the day the music died.

Lifesaver Soda

Lifesaver candies were invented in 1912 and it took a full 80 years to realize the complete vision – a liquid version of the popular hard candy. Introduced in the same five flavors as the original roll, the product scored well in preliminary taste tests but quickly went flat once it hit shelves. Whether it was the multi-colored cylindrical packaging (reminiscent of the original rolls) or the toxic amounts of sugar mixed with water, consumers were ultimately turned off by the concept of drinking their candy.

Candy Cigarettes

Honesty, integrity and chain smoking are the flagship lessons of any well-rounded upbringing and such lessons have been taught since the 19th century with these props. Whether it is in the form of chalky sugar, bubblegum or chocolate, kids have long imitated the Marlboro man and gotten their sugar fix in the form of candy cigs. Always controversial, but never banned, candy cigarettes can still be as "candy sticks."

Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water

“The World’s Most Refreshing Beer” has been brewing with Rocky Mountain spring water since 1873. Over 100 years later, Coors branched out from brew and paid tribute to the quality H2O by releasing a sparkling water in original, lemon-lime and cherry flavors. Since the Coors logo remained proudly front-and-center, it wasn’t worth the risk of being caught behind the wheel in the name of hydration. Sales reflected the concern and Coors decided to stick to their strengths by continuing to distribute the mountain water (only when mixed with hops and barley).

Circus Peanuts Candy

Off the top of your head, name one person that eats the Circus Peanuts candy – you can’t. Typically sold in generic white bags at Middle-American truck stops, these chalky banana clusters of orange sugar must know someone of substantial rank to remain on shelves today. It’s likely that the bags still in circulation are from the original 1800s batch and our grandparents are slowly plucking them one-by-one.

Celery Jello

Somewhere in the 1960s the folks at Jello decided to go green and introduce a series of vegetable gelatins that were schemed to go well with salads. Italian Salad, Mixed Vegetable and Seasoned Tomato were the most accepted of the four but Celery played the lone anchor. Whether it surprises you or not, the flavors flopped and were soon yanked from circulation never to be seen again – by popular demand, it appears this 80 calorie treat will stay gone.

Bigg Mixx Cereal

If you swept the floors of a 1990 Kellogg’s cereal factory and gathered up all the leftover scraps, you’d have the Bigg Mixx cereal – a fine collection of Kellogg brand All-Stars that found themselves branded together in a bowl of bastards and represented by a chicken-wolf-moose-pig mascot. It seemed a demand at the time but customer response didn’t support the Bigg Mixx or the playful mascot. Kellogg’s took the hint and soon pulled the oversized mix that was simply ahead of its time.

Gerber Singles

Baby food crossed demographics in 1974 when Gerber, infamous for their baby foods, released a pureed single-serving meal in a jar for the adults. Aside from larger quantities, the basic ingredients and packaging remained close to the original baby formula and caused much confusion and resistance amongst an older audience. Though everyone has snuck their taste and can admit that baby food isn’t all bad, consumers agreed that mass quantities of pureed veggies should be reserved for infancy.

Heinz Ketchup Potato Chips

The potato chip industry must have been getting stale when Herr’s introduced the Heinz Ketchup flavored potato chip. Though there appears to be a cult following, this tomato pasted snack has its naysayers – rightfully so. Ridged for your pleasure, cooked in vegetable oil and slathered with Heinz’s signature sauce, this bite captures the essence of a pre-dipped French fry. Of course, local markets rarely carry such a bizarre product but trust in cyberspace to provide the most obscure of snacks.

Orbitz Drink

Leave it to the Canadians to combine good intentions with a lack of substance. Developed by Clearly Canadian, this non-carbonated sugar water came on the scene in 1996 with the novel addition of strange floating gelatin balls. Reminiscent of a lava lamp from the 70s haze, Orbitz debuted this disaster beverage in Orange-Vanilla, Raspberry-Citrus, Blueberry-Melon-Strawberry and Pineapple-Banana-Cherry-Coconut flavors. Clearly, no flavor under the sun was refined enough to persuade the consumer that this science project was worth the dollar fifty and the shelf life was short lived.

Colgate Kitchen Entrées

One of history’s most bizarre brand extensions surfaced when a trusted oral care supplier boldly developed microwavable entrées – the next logical step. The intention behind Colgate’s Kitchen Entrees was to provide a method of dirtying your teeth while simultaneously offering a solution for cleaning them. The consumer wasn’t taking oral advice from Marie Calendars and they weren’t about to start using Colgate for their entrée needs; the disconnect won out and the product failed soon after its debut.

New Coke

A little revitalization never hurt anyone – except Coca Cola. In 1985, in an attempt to refresh the brand buzz and improve overall sales, Coke altered the recipe to their world famous cola and dubbed it simply the New Coke. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Though sales of the new endeavor maintained, they never flourished and consumers proved that nothing beats the original. Coke heard the call and pulled the plug. By returning to the original recipe, Coke ultimately saw an increase in sales thanks to nostalgic customers embracing their long lost friend and celebrating the return in large quantities.

Flower Pez

In an effort to capture the patronage of the peaceful “Flower Children” of the 70s, the execs at Pez released a flower-flavored candy. Yep, this flower treat (not flour) came complete with a psychedelic dispenser and melted in your mouth like LSD. The petal flavored sugar cubes had a rough go once in circulation. Whether the target market refused to participate in capitalist commerce or the product simply lacked in appeal, the flower Pez was soon nipped in the bud.

Oscar Mayer Cheesedogs

There are some that would argue a hotdog is its own sin – machine separated pork, turkey, beef and chicken leftover parts (all smashed into one rod) seems too much to bear. However, most can gag one down with a healthy smothering of real American ketchup. Ignoring the popular hotdog condiments, Oscar Mayer upped the ante by pre-filling their dogs with cheese and leftover cheese parts. Just 13g of fat per wiener, this product stretched the limits of creation.

Smucker’s Goobers

The classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich has been around as long as the wheel. Easy to make and a perfect mix of salty and sweet, the PB & J is a timeless lunchtime delight. In an attempt to eliminate a step in the process and a few extra knives to be cleaned, Smucker’s Goobers creatively combines peanut butter and jelly in one jar. Yes, the idea makes sense on paper but quickly loses its appeal when the two separate ingredients inevitably combine into one mutilated gel.


Some exotic foods should remain that way – exotic and far from home. Commonly referred to as Kentucky Pâté, Liverwurst is German creation that made its way to the states and eventually mass produced by a handful of companies. Generally spreadable by nature, this pork based mush requires a touch of pork liver to give it its distinctive liver taste. Despite its international presence, it will take more than a dash of basic spices to make this a strong household product in the US.

Heinz Colored Ketchup

America’s favorite condiment experienced a facelift in October of 2000 when Heinz added food coloring to their signature recipe to produce green, purple, pink, orange, blue and teal colored ketchup. Once again, illustrating that any variance from the classics will alienate loyal consumers, Heinz saw no substantial support for their bold experiment. As of January 2006, these crazy condiment concoctions have been discontinued.


Originally marketed by Nabisco in 1966 under the name Snack Mate, Easy Cheese is a processed cheese currently made and distributed by Kraft. The cheese substitute is canned in a signature dispenser and offered in a variety of party flavors like American Cheese, Mild and Sharp Cheddar, Swiss, Nacho, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar and Bacon & Cheddar. Commonly referred to as Spray Cheese or Aerosol Cheese, this cracker topper has found a cult following in some circles and an angry mob in others.

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