TIME Diet/Nutrition

Soda May Age You as Much as Smoking, Study Says

The link between soda and telomere length

Nobody would mistake sugary soda for a health food, but a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health just found that a daily soda habit can age your immune cells almost two years.

Senior study author Elissa Epel, PhD, professor of psychiatry at University of California San Francisco, wanted to look at the mechanisms behind soda’s storied link to conditions like diabetes, heart attack, obesity, and even higher rates of death. She studied telomeres, the caps at the end of chromosomes in every cell in our body, from white blood cells. Shorter telomeres have been linked to health detriments like shorter lifespans and more stress, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, the study notes.

Epel and her team analyzed data from 5,309 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from about 14 years ago. They found that people who drank more sugary soda tended to have shorter telomeres. Drinking an 8-ounce daily serving of soda corresponded to 1.9 years of additional aging, and drinking a daily 20-ounce serving was linked to 4.6 more years of aging. The latter, the authors point out, is exactly the same association found between telomere length and smoking.

Only the sugary, bubbly stuff showed this effect. Epel didn’t see any association between telomere length and diet soda intake. “The extremely high dose of sugar that we can put into our body within seconds by drinking sugared beverages is uniquely toxic to metabolism,” she says.

She also didn’t see a significant link between non-carbonated sugary beverages, like fruit juice, which Epel says surprised her. But she thinks the results might be different if the data were more modern. “We think that the jury’s still out on sugared beverages—theoretically they’re just as bad,” she says. “But 14 years ago people were drinking a lot less sugared beverages…they were mostly drinking soda.” At the time of the study, 21% of adults in the study reported consuming 20 ounces or more of sugar-sweetened soda each day, but soda consumption has been on the decline for years.

Telomere length dwindles naturally as we age, but it may not be an irreversible process. Previous research shows that it’s possible to increase telomere length by as much as 10% over 5 years by stressing less and eating a healthy diet—no soda included.

Read next: Here’s How to Stop Teens From Drinking Soda

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s How to Stop Teens From Drinking Soda

soda bottles
Getty Images

When kids learn how far they’d have to walk to burn off the calories in a soda, they tend to buy smaller sizes or stop buying it altogether, suggests a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers analyzed more than 3,000 drink purchases by children ages 7 to 18 at stores in low-income Baltimore neighborhoods and found that sugary drinks accounted for 98% of the beverages kids bought. But when researchers put up colorful signs with calorie information, that figure dropped to 89%. The most effective sign was the one that said it would take a five-mile walk to burn off the calories in the drink. Researchers argue that while laws already require beverage manufacturers to post caloric information, calorie numbers may not mean all that much to many consumers. More practical information, including statistics about how long it will take to burn calories, is easier to grasp.

“This is a very low-cost way to get children old enough to make their own purchases to drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, and they appear to be effective even after they are removed,” says study author Sara N. Bleich, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University.

MORE: The Soda Industry’s Promises Mean Nothing

Sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and energy drinks contribute significantly to a number of public health ailments that harm children, including obesity. In low-income communities the problem is especially rampant: Sugary drink consumption accounts for about 15% of a minority adolescent’s caloric intake, more than twice the recommended quantity. Interventions like this might help decrease that disparity.

“People don’t really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories,” says Bleich. “If you’re going to give people calorie information, there’s probably a better way to do it.”

Read next: The Soda Industry’s Promises Mean Nothing

TIME Food & Drink

Do-It-Yourself Soda Making Fad Appears to Be Fizzling

Bubbles in drink
Getty Images

SodaStream is struggling to get more U.S. consumers to buy at-home soda machines

Is the at-home soda making trend about to go pop?

The latest sales warning from SodaStream appears to indicate the market is facing some challenges.

The at-home soda maker warned investors Tuesday it hasn’t had much success attracting new customers to buy its beverage carbonation systems, raising further questions about if that trend is fizzling out in the U.S.

The company warned it expects third-quarter revenue of about $125 million, a roughly 14% drop from last year’s level and far below the $154.4 million projected by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Chief Executive Daniel Birnbaum said while the company had successfully built a solid base of “repeat users” in the U.S., it hasn’t won over enough new converts.

That problem has been evident for a while. SodaStream, which has reported sharply higher annual sales for years as more and more consumers turn to at-home soda making, appears to have hit a wall in the U.S. Soda maker sales in that region slumped 69% in the first quarter and were down 55% in the second quarter of 2014 from last year’s levels. SodaStream in the second quarter had warned the region was problematic, hurt by retailers carrying too much inventory, though the company has said its customers that already own the machines remain active.

Birnbaum said the company would move to shift SodaStream marketing toward promoting health and wellness, primarily in the U.S., where it believes that message would resonate more with consumers.

The downward sales at SodaStream likely reflect changing attitudes among Americans when it comes to soda. Sales of carbonated soft drinks have been falling for years, with the rate of decline worsening of late as consumers turn to juices, flavored waters and other beverage options they deem healthier and generally with fewer calories.

SodaStream is also about to face some steep competitive pressures. Keurig Green Mountain and Coca-Cola have joined forces to develop soft drinks and other cold beverages for a new at-home system, due to hit shelves this fall. But as SodaStream’s results indicate, efforts to give consumers an opportunity to make their own soda at home might not give the industry the pop it needs.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME

The Soda Industry’s Promises Mean Nothing

Production Inside A Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. Plant
Empty Coca-Cola Classic cans move along a conveyor to be filled and sealed at a Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. production facility in Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Marion Nestle is professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University.

Agreeing to decrease soda consumption by 20 percent is easy to do when demand is already falling rapidly

The recent pledge by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group to reduce calories that Americans consumd from their products by 20 percent by 2025 elicited torrents of praise from the Global Clinton Initiative, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the national press.

The real news: soda companies are at last admitting their role in obesity.

Nevertheless, the announcement caused many of us in the public health advocacy community to roll our eyes. Once again, soda companies are making promises that are likely to be fulfilled anyway, whether the companies take any action or not.

Americans have gotten the word. Sodas in anything but small amounts are not good for health.

Although Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association have funded studies that invariably find sodas innocent of health effects, the vast preponderance of research sponsored by the government or foundations clearly demonstrates otherwise.

Think of sodas as candy in liquid form. They contain astonishing amounts of sugars. A 12-ounce soda contains 10 (!) teaspoons of sugar and provides about 150 calories.

It should surprise no one that adults and children who habitually consume sugary drinks are far more likely to take in fewer nutrients, to weigh more, and to exhibit metabolic abnormalities compared to those who abstain or drink only small amounts.

And, contrary to expectation, diet sodas don’t seem to help. A widely publicized recent study suggests that artificially sweetened drinks affect intestinal bacteria in ways, as yet undetermined, that lead to metabolic abnormalities–glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. This research is largely animal-based, preliminary, and requires confirmation. But one thing about diet drinks is clear: they do not do much good in preventing obesity.

People who drink diet sodas tend to be more obese than those who do not. The use of artificial sweeteners in the United States has gone up precisely in parallel with the rise in prevalence of obesity. Is this a cause or an effect? We don’t know yet.

While scientists are trying to sort all this out, large segments of the public have gotten the message: stay away from sodas of any kind.

Since the late 1990s, U.S. per capita consumption of soft drinks has dropped by about 20 percent. If current trends continue, the soda industry should have no trouble meeting its promise of another 20 percent reduction by 2025.

Americans want healthier drinks and are switching to bottled water, sports drinks, and vitamin-fortified drinks—although not nearly at replacement levels. The soda industry has to find ways to sell more products. It also has to find ways to head off regulation. Hence: the promises.

To deal with sales shortfalls, the leading soft-drink brands, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have expanded their marketing overseas. They have committed to invest billions to make and promote their products in Latin America as well as in the hugely populated countries of Asia and Africa where soda consumption is still very low.

From a public health standpoint, people everywhere would be healthier—perhaps a lot healthier—drinking less soda.

In California, the cities of San Francisco and Berkeley have placed soda tax initiatives on the November ballot. The American Beverage Association, the trade association for Coke, Pepsi, and the like, is funding anti-tax campaigns that involve not only television advertising and home mailings, but also creation of ostensibly grassroots (“astroturf”) community organizations, petition campaigns, and, when all else fails, lawsuits to make sure the initiative fails. These efforts are carbon copies of the tactics used to defeat New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s portion size cap proposal.

If the soda industry really wants to help prevent obesity, it needs to change its current practices. It should stop fighting tax and size initiatives, stop opposing warning labels on sugary drinks, stop lobbying against restrictions on sodas in schools, stop using sports and music celebrities to sell products to children, stop targeting marketing to African-American and Hispanic young people, and stop funding research studies designed to give sodas a clean bill of health.

And it should stop complaining, as PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi did last week, that nobody is giving the industry credit for all the good it is doing.

If the government really were serious about obesity prevention, it could ban vending machines from schools, set limits on the size of soft drinks sold at school events, define the amount of sugars allowable in foods and beverages, and, most of all, stop soda marketing aimed at children of any age.

Because neither the soda industry nor the government is likely to do any of this, public health advocates still have plenty of work to do.

Marion Nestle is professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. She is currently working on a book titled Soda! From Food Advocacy to Public Health.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY The Economy

8 Ways the American Consumer May Have Already Peaked

disposable diapers
Statistics suggest that American consumers may have hit "peak diaper"—for babies anyway. Joseph Pollard—Getty Images

The U.S. economy relies on robust consumer spending. But it's starting to look like Americans have had enough of some products.

Have you heard of “Peak Car”? That’s the idea that there’s a point at which total car ownership and miles driven will start declining. Given the questions about whether or not millennials want cars, as well as data showing that Americans have been driving less for a wide variety of reasons, some analysts believe that we’ve already hit Peak Car in the U.S.

And cars may not be the only thing that’s peaked. Here’s a look at a several seemingly disparate areas where U.S. consumers may be topping out.

Peak Car
The case for this one is controversial. Auto sales have been on the rebound since the Great Recession, sometimes growing by more than one million sales from year to year. After a hot summer for sales, 2014 is on pace for perhaps 16.5 to 17 million new vehicle purchases in the U.S. Then again, after months of heavy promotions and discounting, some experts believe the market is bound to slump toward the end of 2014, and few think that the tally will match the all-time high of 17.4 million sales in 2000.

Globally, some analysts predict that car ownership and usage will peak sometime in the next decade, while the Economist has theorized that Peak Car “still seems quite a long way off” because demand for cars in developing countries is expected to be strong for decades, and also because self-driving features will become mainstream. That means driving will be safer and insurance will cost less, drawing more people onto the roads.

Peak Casino
For years, there’s been talk about reaching a saturation point for casinos, in which gambling expands so widely that too many casinos are chasing the business of the same pool of customers willing to roll the dice and pull the arms of slot machines. The effects of such a situation are on display in Atlantic City, N.J., where one-quarter of the casinos opened at the beginning of 2014 are now closed. Two more casinos in Mississippi closed this year, and analysts are questioning whether markets such as the Baltimore area—which now hosts two casinos, and which has been blamed as a contributor to the falloff in gambling in Atlantic City—are big enough to keep local gaming interests afloat.

New casinos are still planned for Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, yet based on the number of casino closings and data indicating that overall slot revenues in North America are on pace to be down nearly 30% this year, it looks like there are already too many casinos in the marketplace battling to survive. “In many jurisdictions, gaming supply has increased while demand for the product has not, resulting in a state of market disequilibrium,” a post at the asset-based lending site ABL Advisor explained. “There is no simpler way for me to make this point.”

Peak Golf
Between 1986 and 2005, more than 4,500 new golf courses were opened in the U.S., including as many as 400 in a single year. Over the next six years, however, there was a net reduction of 500 courses, with 155 courses closing in 2012. Golf participation and golf sales are likewise plummeting for a variety of reasons: Ppeople are too busy, the sport just might be too hard, too expensive, or too uncool. And projections call for roughly 150 course closings and no more than 20 course openings in the years ahead. In other words, golf most likely peaked in the U.S. in 2005.

Peak Fast Food
The American appetite for pizza appears to have reached an all-time high around 2012, when one survey found that 40% of consumers noshed on pizza at least once a week. The food and beverage consultant firm Technomic noted in early 2014 that pizza consumption has “decreased just slightly over the past two years, likely peaking post-recession due to pizza’s ability to satisfy cravings and meet needs for value.” Foot traffic at Pizza Hut and other quick-serve pizza chains has been on the decline. For that matter, Businessweek recently made the case that the U.S. may also be reaching “Peak Burger.” The growth of franchises for fast food giants such as Burger King and McDonald’s has slowed significantly in recent years, with net openings close to zero.

Data from a new report from the NPD Group indicates that visits to low-cost quick-service restaurants, where the average customer bill is about $5, has been flat over the past year, and for the most part, income inequality and stagnant wages among the middle classes are to blame. “Low-income consumers, who are heavier users of quick service restaurants, were most adversely affected by the Great Recession and have less discretionary income to spend on dining out,” the study explains.

Peak Soda
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group may have together just pledged to reduce calories by 20% in sugary beverages, but the effort appears unlikely to bring American soda consumption back to the heights of a decade or so ago. Per-capita consumption of soda fell 16% between 1998 and 2011, and in 2013, total volume sales of soda was measured at 8.9 billion cases, the lowest total since 1995. Part of the long-term decline has been attributed to Americans wanting to cut calories and have more nutritious diets, but diet soda sales have been tanking lately too.

Peak Fashion
In 1991, the average American purchased 40 garments of clothing annually, according to data cited by the Wall Street Journal. Clothing consumption took off from there, reaching an average of 69 articles bought in 2005, which appears to have been the peak. In 2013, American consumers had gotten their clothing purchases down to an average of 63.7 garments per year.

Peak Diapers (for Babies)
The U.S. birth rate declined 8% during the recession-era years 2007 to 2010, and just kept on falling thereafter, reaching a record low (thus far) in 2013. Considering that U.S. births peaked in 2007, it shouldn’t be a surprise that diaper sales in the U.S. have retreated since then as well.

What’s especially interesting is that as baby diaper sales have declined, industry giants like Procter & Gamble have stepped up efforts to sell adult diapers and other incontinence products to make up for the decline at the other end of the market.

Peak Median Income
Lots of these peaks are just challenges for specific industries. But here’s one that might worry any consumer-based business: People can’t spend more if they aren’t earning more.

In 1999, median household income in the U.S. was $56,895 in today’s dollars (after adjusting for inflation), according to census data cited by New York magazine. That was the highest it’s ever been. Lately, the middle-of-the-road household income in America has been $51,939. Given increased automation of the workforce and the rise of income inequality across the board, it may very well be that the median household will never be able to party like it’s 1999.

TIME Obesity

Why Cutting Soda Calories Isn’t Such a Sweet Idea

soda
Getty Images

Civil rights and soda might not seem like a classic combination. But yesterday, as major soda brands announced their goal to reduce beverage calories in the American diet, it seemed to make sense to Wendy Clark, president of sparkling brands and strategic marketing for Coca-Cola North America.

“‘The time is always right to do the right thing’ – MLK” she tweeted. “So proud of our industry.”

That time will come in 2025, the year by which every American will drink 20% fewer soda calories than they do today. In the press release about the announcement, which was made at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapple vowed to make these reductions in part by making containers smaller, as well as focusing marketing efforts and innovation into lower-calorie drinks, no-calorie drinks and water. In the release, President Bill Clinton called the pledge a “critical step in our ongoing fight against obesity.”

But are such premature congratulations merited? Is developing more low- and no-calorie bottled beverages really the way to fight obesity?

Soda consumption has dropped, with sales lower than they have been since 1995. And while we might like to think sippers are swapping soda for water or unsweetened herbal tisane, research shows they’re not. A Pediatrics study published earlier this year that showed while kids aren’t drinking as much soda as they once were, they’re guzzling more energy drinks and coffee beverages—both caffeinated sweetened products with a nutritional profile similar to most sodas. Sales for ready-to-drink tea—most of which is sweetened—are also up by double digits in the Coca-Cola portfolio, reports Forbes.

That’s concerning if we want to seriously address obesity. The jury is out on no-calorie and low-calorie sweeteners, but mounting recent evidence showings sugar substitutes may contribute the very obesity they’re meant to combat. That’s because they appear to fuel sugar cravings and alter the composition of gut microbes, leading to a rise in blood glucose levels. Several studies have found a link between sugar alternatives and weight gain, and research just published in the journal Appetite found that drinking artificially sweetened beverages make you think about food more, choose high-calorie foods more often, and feel less satisfied after eating things sweetened with actual sugar.

“On face value you’re getting a nice sweet taste without calories, but my research shows it might lead to cognitive shifts that might promote overconsumption later,” Sarah Hill, the study author and a psychologist at Texas Christian University, tells TIME.

This all suggests that even if soda slashes calories by 2025 as promised, the replacement ingredients could come with unforeseen consequences.

The idea of tasting something sweet without getting any energy from it is an evolutionarily very novel thing for our bodies to handle, Hill says. “When you have that unnatural pairing of sweetness and no energy increase, it leads the body to perceive an energy crisis,” Hill says. “It triggers thoughts and behaviors consistent with a scarcity mode.”

“I think that the real way to get change is drinking water,” Hill says. Plain, unadulterated, straight-from-the-tap H2O included.

MONEY Food & Drink

Nostalgia SURGE! Cult Favorite Foods & Drinks Back from the Dead

Twinkies Chocodile
Hostess

Fueled by nostalgia—and often, outcries on social media—the snacks, sodas, and beers you haven't been able to buy for years are making big comebacks.

There’s no mystery as to why malls play old Christmas songs, why retro products and brands pop up regularly in the marketplace, and why advertisers are constantly trying to evoke memories of our youth. But if anyone had any doubts, the results of a study published over the summer by the Journal of Consumer Research show that we’re more likely to spend money when we’re in a nostalgic mood.

Consumers are also, we know, more prone to buying stuff when it hasn’t been available in quite some time, and when we get the idea it may disappear again because it’s a limited-time offer. The periodic resurfacing of the McDonald’s McRib is a great example of how this strategy can work over and over to successfully drum up sales—for a product that, remember, was discontinued from the regular menu because not enough people liked it.

These varied forces have combined to fuel a surge in sales for products ranging from cheap old-school beer (featuring retro bottles, cans, and logos) to re-releases of old-school sneakers, Nike Air Jordans in particular. And these forces are also fueling a surge in discontinued food and drink products being brought back from the dead, including, well, SURGE.

The highly caffeinated citrus soda brand was brought back by Coca-Cola this week due to popular demand. The masses spoke in the form of a Facebook page with more than 140,000 Likes that demanded its return to the marketplace. And then they took action by buying up the first batch in its entirety within hours of it going on sale at Amazon.com.

Here are a few other food and drink products that disappeared for a while, only to resurface to the rejoicing of more than a few cult fans.

Hostess Chocodiles
At one point, sellers on eBay were asking as much as $90 a box for these chocolate-covered Twinkie treats, and buyers paid $17 for a single Chocodile. That was back during the dark days, when Chocodiles weren’t available in the vast majority of the country. In July Hostess announced it was bringing the Chocodile back nationally, by way of some hyperbolic statements from the company’s CEO. “In the past Chocodiles seemed to be shrouded as much in mystery as in chocolate, inspiring an obsession among fans that was truly the stuff of legends,” said William Toler, president and CEO of Hostess Brands. “Now, fanatics will once again be able to satisfy their cravings and a new generation will be able to experience the magic for the first time.”

BK Chicken Fries
Over the summer, around the same time Burger King was dramatically scaling back availability of Satisfries, its low-calorie French fry, the fast food giant brought back decidedly less healthy Chicken Fries to the menu for a limited time. The breaded-and-fried chicken strips were on the menu from 2005 until they were discontinued in 2012. But after online petitions and Tumblr pages pleaded for their return, BK relented. “On peak days we’ve seen one tweet every forty seconds about Chicken Fries, many of them directly petitioning, begging, for us to bring them back,” Eric Hirschhorn, Burger King’s Chief Marketing Officer North America, said in a statement. “When you have guests who are this passionate about a product, you have to give them what they want.”

Ballantine IPA
The hipster cult status of PBR has caused the Pabst Brewing Company to take a hard look at the beer brands it owns and see if should start brewing any of its discontinued old-school beers—which, perhaps, might also gain a following with hipsters. That’s essentially why Pabst relaunched Schlitz in 2008, and then reintroduced Schlitz vintage “Tall Boy” can a few years later. And it’s why the company is bringing back Ballantine IPA, the 136-year-old brew produced for decades in Newark, N.J., credited as America’s first IPA. It helps that the craft beer revolution has made hoppy IPAs extremely popular.

General Mills Monster Cereals
For most of the year, shoppers can’t find Boo Berry, Count Chocula, and Franken Berry in the cereal aisles of any supermarkets. But then sometime in late summer, their dormancy period ends like that of a pumpkin spice latte, and they’re suddenly available again just in time for the ramp-up to Halloween. This year, the cereals feature new designs from DC Comics artists, being sold side by side next to cereal boxes with retro characters and logos from the 1970s and ’80s. Count Chocula and Franken Berry are also being sold in select stores in Canada this season, which is unusual. “No more trips across the U.S. border to stock up!,” a General Mills post promised.

Last year, General Mills made monster cereal fans extra happy by bringing back two rare products, Frute Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy, which hadn’t been sold in more than two decades. Alas, it looks like the two cult favorites are not returning to stores this season, prompting fans to voice their disappointment with comments on the company blog.

Something tells us we’ll be seeing both Frute Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy again in the future. In today’s nostalgia-ridden world, no brands really die, not even when they feature monster characters that are undead.

MONEY Shopping

Surge Is Back! These 10 Sodas Should Be Next

Surge, the '90s soda with a cult following, has finally been revived. But why stop there? Here are 10 other soft drinks that need to make a comeback.

For years, the people of the world have clamored for the return of Surge, Coca-Cola’s 1990’s response to Mountain Dew. The xtreme-styled soft drink, discontinued in 2002, was revived this week after a dedicated Facebook group of fans—143,000 strong—convinced the soda-maker to reintroduce their favorite product.

That’s great for Surge lovers, who bought up all of Surge’s new stock within hours, but what about fans of other sodas that were killed before their time? Here are our picks for 10 soft drinks that need to make a comeback.

  • Coca-Cola BlāK

    Coca-Cola Blak
    Chris Rank—Bloomberg News

    Everyone loves coffee. Everyone loves soda. In 2006, Coca-cola put that together into one can’t-miss idea: What if we released a coffee soda? The result was Coke BlāK, a carbonated beverage that tasted just like bubbly iced coffee and packaged in a fancy glass bottle. It lasted all of two years before it was given the axe. How did it taste, you ask? Amazing. Or at least my high-school self thought so, and I didn’t even like coffee back then. Pepsi also tried its hand at a coffee cola, Pepsi Kona, in the ’90s, but gave up on the drink soon after its release. Now that coffee is more of a dominant force in our society than ever, it’s time both beverages made a comeback.

  • Pepsi Holiday Spice

    Pepsi Holiday Spice
    Tim Ereneta via Flickr

    Pumpkin spice is all the rage right now, but Pepsi was bringing this holiday flavor to soda as far back as 2004. After a brief disappearance from the market, which prompted at least one petition from fans calling for its return, Pepsi brought the drink back in the form of the slightly spicier Christmas Pepsi. That too disappeared, leaving a huge spicy hole on convenience store shelves.

  • Josta

    A bottle of Pepsi's new Josta drink
    Richard Drew—Associated Press

    PepsiCo’s Josta may have been one of the first real “energy drinks” to hit American shores, and definitely the first to be made by a major soda manufacturer. Released in 1995, Josta included guarana, now an energy drink staple, and competed with the recently revived Jolt soda for caffeine-happy customers before it was dropped a year before the new millennium.

    Why did it fail? Based on fan descriptions, Josta sounds like an acquired taste. From SaveJosta’s website:

    [Its flavor is] very difficult to describe. It’s safe to say it was one of the most uniquely-flavored beverages ever sold in the mainstream sodamarket (sic). It is fruity and berry like, with a bit of dark spices and the astringent bite of guarana berries. The color is a deep red, almost brown.

    I initially didn’t know what to make of it, but after a couple bottles fell completely in love.

    Considering the drink was released (and discontinued) around the same time as Surge, which targeted a similar demographic, and the fact that it was produced by Coca-Cola’s main rival, one could see Josta enjoying its own triumphant return. The soda even has a the requisite grass-roots lobbying group, although their recent petition to bring back Josta had fewer than 100 signatures at press time.

  • dnL

    dnL—the 7-Up logo upside-down—was an attempt to get parent company Cadbury Schweppes in on the xtreme drink craze. Unlike its parent brand, which tried to court an un-cola image, dnL was everything 7-Up was not: caffeinated, neon green, and marketed as an even more hip/cool/rad version of Mountain Dew. The soda’s official website, archived here, invites interested consumers to “Check It” and promotes dnL’s affiliation with the extreme snowboarding game SSX 3. After lagging sales, which Cadbury Schweppes America’s CEO blamed on the product’s poor fit with the 7-Up brand, dnL was discontinued in 2006.

  • Sprite Remix

    Sprite Remix
    Coca-Cola—Getty Images

    Compared with Coke, which repeatedly (and sometimes catastrophically) experimented with new flavors, Sprite has always been relatively stable. But in 2003, Coca-Cola decided to change that by releasing Sprite Remix. Remix came in three flavors—Tropical, Berryclear, and Aruba Jam—and each commercial featured plenty of record scratching and reminders that this wasn’t your parent’s soda, man. Soon it wasn’t anyone’s soda. Sprite Remix was cut in 2005.

  • Coke-Cola Lime

    Coca-Cola Lime
    Alamy

    Don’t even start with me about how this soda still exists, because Diet Coke Lime, which I believe was kept around just to taunt me, is a but a pale shadow of the magic that was real actual regular Coke Lime. It was tangy, it didn’t have that metallic Diet Coke burn, and even though it only lasted from 2005 to 2006, those were some good times. Also, the bottle’s green and red branding looked pretty darn cool.

  • Pepsi Twist

    Pepsi Twist
    John Brown—Alamy

    This lemon-flavored cola seemed like a great idea, but apparently never quite caught on. It had an initial run from 2000 through 2006—enough time to disturb most of America with a string of strange commercials—before being dropped. Twist briefly reappeared for the 2008 NFL season before disappearing again from shelves.

  • OK

    Coca-Cola's new OK soda
    Ted Thai—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

    OK soda might be one of the strangest soft drinks every brought to market. As BuzzFeed recounts in its history of the failed brand, Coca-Cola decided in 1993 that it needed a product that would connect with cynical Gen-Xers who didn’t want to drink anything made by the “the man.” The solution? Make a soda just as ironic and disaffected as its target demographic. OK adopted a faux-nihilist/dystopian advertising campaign that, among other slogans, included:

    “What’s the point of OK? Well, what’s the point of anything?”

    “OK soda says ‘Don’t be fooled into thinking there has to be a reason for everything'”

    “It’s OK for you to think I’m not OK but I am”

    In the end, sales weren’t OK. The soda never made it out of test markets and was discontinued in 1995.

  • Orbitz

    Orbitz soda
    Sean Nash via Flickr

    In 1997, Orbitz soda hit shelves, wowing consumers with its weird little balls that never sank to the bottom of the bottle. That’s not actually enough to sell soda though, at least long term. A weird early-internet marketing campaign, centered around “Planet Orbitz” and what TIME called a “cough-syrupy taste” didn’t help matters. After a year, Orbitz the soda was gone, but it lives on through its URL, Orbitz.com, which now directs to the popular travel site of the same name.

  • Crystal Pepsi

    Bottles of Crystal Pepsi are seen in a bottling factory in 1992.
    Pepsi-Cola—Associated Press

    Crystal Pepsi was only around for about a year in its original form, and then for another brief aborted reboot, but you wouldn’t know it from the absolute fervor around bringing back the clear beverage. And that’s all it was, really; just clear cola. But Pepsi made an impression with some crazy early advertising, including a 1993 super bowl spot featuring Van Halen’s “Right Now.”

    The drink didn’t meet sales goals and it was canned soon after, but then quickly reappeared as a citrus soda known only as Crystal. That flopped too, and now Crystal Pepsi only exists in the memories of its seemingly infinite fans. Those people were whipped into a frenzy last year when a hoax-site called the Wall Street Sentinel reported an early 2014 comeback. That rumor was debunked, however, and the world still yearns for another clear soda that tastes like Pepsi—or Coke, we’re not picky. Change.org is filled with Crystal Pepsi revival petitions, like this one, but without a coherent movement the soda seems far from a return.

TIME marketing

Coca-Cola Is Bringing Back SURGE

Coke dials up the 1990s nostalgia

Coca-Cola’s 1990s SURGE citrus drink is back by popular demand.

The Mountain-Dew inspired soda, which debuted in 1996 but was discontinued in the early 2000s, has been the subject of a nostalgia-fueled online campaign to lobby the company to bring back the drink.

A Facebook group devoted to SURGE has over 129,000 likes, and Coca-Cola said in a statement that they’ve decided to re-issue the drink thanks to “a passionate and persistent community of brand loyalists who have been lobbying The Coca-Cola Company to bring back their favorite drink over the last few years.”

SURGE will be sold on Amazon.com, which represents the first time a Coca-Cola product has been sold exclusively through an online retailer. SURGE’s relaunch will also be an experiment in social media marketing for the brand, since they said they will not invest in any traditional marketing for this product.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s What Soda Does to Young Rats’ Brains

Soda is on the mind. A new small study in rats found that drinking sugary beverages may result in memory issues down the line.

University of Southern California researchers looked at adult and adolescent rats, and feed them sugary beverages (meant to mimic soda) for a month. After a month, the rats completed tasks that assessed their cognitive function and memory. The adult rats had no problems, but the adolescent rats who had been drinking sugary beverages had impaired memory and trouble learning.

The findings are being presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), and are preliminary. The researchers plan to explore whether the soda is causing inflammation in the brain’s hippocampus, which is the region of the brain involved in memory and learning.

Though the research has not been done in humans, it’s part of a growing body of work looking at the risks of soda.

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