Pushing the Envelope | Three companies that are making bold decisions in their product offerings

Hello Folks. I’m somewhat of a newbie here writing articles for TRN. After joining the gang last year and seeing the styles of the great bloggers here who write and speak on a variety of Retro-themed subjects, I wanted to take in everything and really figure out what my passions are and what topics are ones that are near and dear to me. And in doing so, I really learned that I have a keen interest in products and marketing:

– specifically things like logos, branding, slogans, product packaging, and promotions that companies run – I guess you’d call it the aesthetics of products and items. I’ve always enjoyed looking in the sports world – looking tirelessly at sports teams’ logo history, jersey history, and also enjoy looking at designers who offer up fictional “mock-ups” of jerseys and logos.  I also discovered I have a fondness and eye for noticing branding changes in the food and beverage world. I think it might come from when I was a teen in college stocking shelves at a local grocery store – being taught to front the items on the shelf to make them look as good and as fully stocked as possible.

When it comes to food, I remember being enamored with something Mom brought home from the grocery store one day. It had to have been a trip that I decided not to accompany her on this occasion because upon unloading the groceries when she returned, I saw she picked up this strange-looking, but very 90’s-esque product. Heinz EZ-Squirt Ketchup. If you are a child of the 90s like me, you must remember this product. Mom had brought home green ketchup! I would later find out that they also had purple and blue as well. To my surprise, I found out it tasted exactly like the red ketchup. I guess Mom had been lured by the unusual color of the bottle that day in the ketchup aisle. And I remember friends coming over and seeing the green ketchup, and soon after a buddy of mine would always ask what color ketchup we had over at our house! He would always assume our family would purchase the odd offerings of traditional items.

Later on, it wouldn’t be uncommon to find other variant items in our home. Like when Jelly Belly would release the “Bamboozled” Jelly Beans with odd and disgusting flavors of jelly beans. It almost became a bit of a family tradition to have company come over to see who would be able to handle eating the “Barf” or “Dead Fish” flavor bean.

I’m now nearing 40 years old, and when it’s my turn to do the grocery shopping or a quick stop in the gas station, I’m always looking around for the newest offerings of sodas, candy bars, chips, and other items. I guess you can sum it up by saying the Junk Foods! I’m going to write about 3 companies who seem to be always “pushing the envelope” – that is – they are always willing to try and experiment with their products by changing up, or in some cases, totally reforming their classic offerings. I actually have about 10 companies in mind, so maybe there will be a Part 2 and a Part 3 one day, but here they are (in no particular order).

  1. Mountain Dew

    No company has been taking bigger risks than good ol’ Mountain Dew, the citrus-flavored beverage produced by PepsiCo that goes “balls to the wall” with their new flavor options each year for the past several years. MD has been around since the 1940’s, with mascot “Willy the Hillbilly” gracing the logo of MD until the early 70s. In the mid 90’s, their product packaging started relating to a more hip,  younger generation, and a decade later, the shortened name MTN DEW has been prominent on their labels.  Ever since Y2K I’d say, MD has toyed around with introducing different flavors almost annually as soda-drinkers everywhere look forward to what crazy idea MD will throw at us next. I’d say they really started switching things up when MD Code Red was introduced in 2001 (Cherry-Flavored), and MD LiveWire in 2003 (Orange-Flavored) – both of which are currently available all year. Also around this time (2004), MD decided to give a very popular fast food restaurant its own exclusive flavor, MD Baja Blast, a tropical lime variant flavor found only at Taco Bell. They’ve also released other exclusive flavors at other retailers in the past few years as well -none more notable than the Baja flavor.

    In recent years, MD has been going really off-script, introducing seasonal and timely flavors (of which not all are home-run hitters). Some of the more memorable ones were MD Pitch Black (dark citrus punch flavor) comes and goes and is generally available in stores around the Halloween season. MD Dew-S-A (a combination of 3 other MD Flavors) has a patriotic-themed bottle that has been released in 2017 and 2021 in the summertime. Back in 2021, MD released MD Gingerbread Snap’d during the Christmas-time of that year (I still remember the hints of cinnamon taking that swig!), only to follow that one up the next Christmas season with MD Fruit Quake (a fruitcake flavor – YUCK). Currently, MD just released MD Summer Freeze – which I tasted a few weeks back – and everyone mentions it’s kind of like a Bomb Popsicle flavored Dew. Not my favorite flavor, but certainly could be a nice addition to a 4th of July get-together.

And finally, for the last 4 years, MD has been releasing a mystery flavored drink dubbed MD Voo-Dew released again around the Halloween season, with the actual flavorings being revealed as candy corn, fruit candy, and sour candy.

Like many other beverage companies, MD has also put out Energy Beverages (Amp, Energy/Rise, & Kickstart) and even a hard-beverage option (dubbed Hard Mountain Dew). It’s safe to say, in my opinion, Mountain Dew isn’t afraid to swing and miss, knowing their classic citrus-flavor is their tried and true drink that is their true identity.

  1. Pringles

    This potato chip company has been around for 50 years, and of course is instantly recognizable by their cylindrical shaped cans instead of the typical bag-packaged chips of their competitors. “Once You Pop, You Can’t Stop” was a slogan of theirs back when I was younger, and their classic always-available flavors are Original, Salt and Vinegar, Sour Cream, Cheddar, Ranch, and BBQ, but other flavors you can often find at times are Honey Mustard, Pizza, and Loaded Baked Potato.

    Pringles and Wendy’s once created some synergy and teamed up to introduce 2 flavors, a Baconator flavor, and also a Spicy Chicken Sandwich flavor, and I’ll never forget a few years back finding a Roasted Turkey Flavor around the Thanksgiving Holiday, which of course I had to pick up to try. They would later parlay that into a Thanksgiving Trio Box of Turkey, Stuffing, and Pumpkin Pie flavor. (SIDE NOTE: A Mint, Unopened Can of this Turkey Day 3-Pack is currently being sold for almost $900 on E-Bay).

And they didn’t forget about Christmas either. About a decade ago, they released sweet flavors such as Cinnamon Sugar, White Chocolate Peppermint, Milk Chocolate, Pecan Pie, Salted Caramel, and Sugar Cookie – none of which I’ve ever tasted.

On their website, they are currently showcasing their newest flavors, Philly Cheesesteak, Hot Honey, and French Fries and Ketchup. Needless to say, Pringles is the type of product that can really experiment with all kinds of offerings.

  1. Coca-Cola

    The Classic Soft Drink that we all know and love, Coke has been around for over 100 years in some shape or form. They have a vast array of flavors on shelves all year round, in Diet, Caffeine Free, and Zero Sugar varieties. Besides the classic Coca-Cola, their most popular flavor is probably Cherry Coke (which by the way, of all sodas- probably has the coolest history of can art ever – check it out sometime), but Vanilla and Cherry Vanilla have been on the shelves for quite a while now. When my wife would grocery shop years ago, she would often find glass-bottle Peach Coke, which was amazing when enjoyed ice-cold and tasted great. I don’t find that flavor around much anymore, and have never seen it in anything other than a glass bottle.

And if you frequent certain fast food establishments, you might find a Coke Freestyle machine, first introduced in 2009, which is where I generally get my Lime Coke. Years ago, I went with friends to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia, and got to sample various Coke products from around the world. If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth a stop. And another little fond memory of Coke I have, is getting the ornament-shaped Coke bottles for Christmas when I was younger. Simple idea, but really stuck with me as a kid.

In recent years, Coke has tried a different kind of branding approach, introducing a series of products dubbed Creations, with unique names and strange-looking labels (especially when you consider the classic Red/White label that makes the brand so easily recognizable). Starlight, Dreamworld, Move, Byte, Soul Blast, and a Marshmello (a DJ) inspired watermelon/strawberry flavor. I’m sure this is a marketing strategy to try and appeal to a youth demographic that some would say is more edgier, bold and upfront about what they like to consume. I’ve enjoyed some of the new Coke Products, but I must say, a good ice cold Coca-Cola, no matter the flavor, can hit the spot!

There you have it – 3 companies spotlighted. What are your thoughts? Are they doing too much? Or do you enjoy these companies trying new things, testing the waters, and pushing the limits? What products of theirs have you tried and enjoyed? Or maybe even the ones that you absolutely detested? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

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About Chad Droze 7 Articles
Tech Person by trade. Grew up mainly in the 90's and most of my nostalgia is derived from that decade. Sports, Tech, and Video Games are my main interests, and love to explore the graphics and aesthetics of the 80's and 90's through old tv commercials, product packaging, and print ads.

3 Comments

  1. First off, I can’t handle the Jelly Belly Bamboozled. We played that game a couple times and the “skunk” flavor would mess up my taste buds (not to mention my stomach) for days. I have almost always been a Mtn Dew drinker since at least middle school I believe. I always attempt to try the limited edition flavors each season when they come out, but there have only been 1-2 that I would want to drink again after that. One somewhat regular flavor that I found to be my new flavor is Mtn Dew Voltage. It has raspberry citrus flavor and ginseng and has become part of my regular Mtn Dew consumption (which nowadays I do try to limit to one can a day). As far as Pringles go, I am still partial to the original flavor in the red can there. As I said, I am more of a Mtn Dew drinker and thus not a Coke drinker, and don’t go out of my way to try any of their new concoctions. Look forward to more features from you!!

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