The controversial soda is back (sort of) and KFC, Popeyes, and anyone who loves fried chicken should take notice.
The Cold War between Russia (then the Soviet Union) and the United States formally ended in 1992. That year, however, marked an escalation in the cold (beverage) war between Coca-Cola (KO) – Get Coca-Cola Company (The) Report and PespsiCo (PEP) – Get PepsiCo Inc. Report.
These two companies pulled out all the stops in the early 90s trying new takes on their classic brands to thwart the other. The most famous of these (perhaps) happened during a period marketers refer to as the clear phase — a time when companies sought to make their products see-through because it conveyed some sort of purity to customers.
“A company recognized as the industry leader in this regard was the soap giant, Ivory, who, among other things, released a clear version of their dish soap in the early 1990s. Ivory Clear was advertised with rather questionably accurate slogans like “Ivory attacks the grease, not the natural oils in your skin,” wrote ThatTimeIFoundOut.com. “The idea of clear products was quickly used in diverse and eclectic range of products including Zima Clearmalt (a clear citrus beer), Mennen Crystal Clean deodorant, and, perhaps most bizarre of all, Amoco Crystal Clear gasoline.”
The cola companies, as you might imagine, could not skip this craze and that led to the heavily-hyped release of Crystal Pepsi, a clear take on the company’s signature product.
Crystal Pepsi Was a Big Flop
Crystal Pepsi was a hit at first, likely driven by novelty. It was actually a more pure product than Pepsi’s traditional cola. It was basically Pepsi minus the caramel coloring and in 1992 it was a big enough hit that Coca-Cola countered by launching Tab Clear.
Now, that’s a questionable counter-punch — sort of like countering a pizza party with a plate of cauliflower — but, at the time, customers drank Tab despite its terrible taste due to the general lack of low/no-calorie sodas. After its initial success interest in Crystal Pepsi quickly waned and the product was pulled from stores in 1994.
Pepsi, after a variety of different fan petitions and social media campaigns, has brought back Crystal Pepsi multiple time for limited runs. Now, a clear version of Pepsi has returned, but it’s not using the Crystal Pepsi name (and it’s an odd product idea to say the least.
Clear Pepsi and Japanese Fried Chicken?
While pairing foods with wines has long been popular, nobody has ever thought of creating sodas designed to go with a specific dish. That, however, is exactly what Pepsi has done.
Pepsi has tried unique offerings in Japan before, but “now, they’ve outdone themselves by creating a special Pepsi designed to be drunk with the “national dish” karaage, or Japanese-style fried chicken,” SoraNews 24 reported. “The “Pepsi Karaage Senyo Cola” (“Pepsi Cola Exclusively for Fried Chicken“) is said to cut through the oiliness of the chicken and refresh your palate in a way that surpasses other types of Pepsi on the market.”
It’s not Crystal Pepsi in name, but the product is clear and certainly evocative of the classic beverage.
“For this new release, the scent and sweetness of cola have been dialled down to enhance the flavor of fried chicken, with the addition of dietary fiber to help cut through the oiliness, resulting in a refreshing taste. The cola is transparent and contains zero calories so you don’t have to worry about adding to the high calorie count of fried chicken,” Sora News added.
And while the product is targeted to pair with Karaage, it seems like it would go well with Yum! Brands (YUM) – Get Yum! Brands Inc. Report KFC or Restaurant Brands International’s (QSR) – Get Restaurant Brands International Inc. Report Popeyes. KFC actually has a deal with Pepsi while Popeyes sells Coca-Cola products.