When it comes to our favorite brands, it seems we're more likely to remember the epic successes (Doritos Locos Tacos, anyone?) than the equally epic failures. But failures, there are aplenty.
Dangerous, disgusting, or just plain absurd, these gastronomic gaffes may be fun to laugh at now, but it wouldn't be so amusing if we were all forced to drink New Coke, now would it?
From Four Loko to KFC's Double Down, here's our roundup of some of the food industry's most notorious creations.
10. Heinz EZ Squirt
The sky is blue. The grass is green. And ketchup is red. These are indisputable facts of human existence, so when Heinz messed with its crimson ketchup, people were upset. Blue ketchup? Purple ketchup? "Mystery" colors? Designed for kids, these bizarre multicolored creations mystified the average consumer. A purple hot dog is just a little too weird for most folks. So the concept was abandoned, and red returned to its rightful place.
9. Crystal Pepsi
"If we wanted a beverage we could see through, we'd drink Sprite. Or, you know, that water stuff." That about sums up the state of mind of American soda drinkers, who overwhelmingly rejected Pepsi's clear, caffeine-free cola in 1992. It just felt unnatural, like beer without alcohol or a toddler in a swimsuit competition. (Oh wait, those things exist.) It was discontinued in 1993, and Yum! Brands CEO David Novak, who was credited with the concept, shared the following gem of wisdom about his misstep: "It would have been nice if I'd made sure the product tasted good."
8. KFC's Double Down
Depending upon who you talk to, this artery-clogging concoction could be considered the pinnacle of fast-food success. KFC was (and still is) making money off the breadless sandwich. Described as "bacon, two different kinds of melted cheese, the Colonel's secret sauce... pinched in between two pieces of Original Recipe chicken fillets," it sparked a firestorm of media controversy. But you can't buy that kind of buzz, and people ate 'em up. The Double Down is still available at some KFCs, in case you're looking for a light lunch. Oh, and if you're a real health nut, you can always substitute grilled chicken for fried.
7. Colgate Kitchen Entrées
The idea of eating toothpaste isn't very appealing, at least not when we're free from the influence of narcotics. So when Colgate stocked freezer shelves with its own line of frozen meals, consumers were understandably grossed out. Seeing the same brand name in both the dental-care and freezer aisles does not hunger make. Corporate bigwigs were apparently convinced that the idea of eating a Colgate meal and then brushing with Colgate would wow consumers. It did not.
6. Gerber Singles
The eating routine of your average baby is pretty mundane: mashed carrots, puréed peas, liquid versions of solid foods. Not too appetizing. Yet Gerber was sure that adults were somehow longing to eat the same meals as their wee ones. So the company released Singles, a line of single-serve meals packaged in glass jars, marketed to college students and uncoupled adults. Because what every single adult wants is to sit at home and eat a giant jar of baby food.
5. Kellogg's Breakfast Mates
Milk and cereal is not the most complicated of meals. Pour some Lucky Charms, add a splash of cold milk, and breakfast is served. But Kellogg's was positive it could get even easier. Breakfast Mates were a prepackaged combo of single-serve cereal and shelf-safe milk. While the taste of room-temperature milk is gross enough on its own, it's unnerving to imagine what's done to the milk to make it last without refrigeration. Apparently even Americans aren't lazy enough to buy into that scenario.
By the maker of Reddi-wip, this precooked bacon product hit shelves in the '60s. Wrapped in aluminum-foil packets, the meat was made to be heated in a toaster -- no frying pan required. Alas, consumers must have missed the greasy goodness of pan-cooked bacon, because the product flopped. Given the bacon saturation in the foodie world over the past few years, we're rather surprised this product hasn't made a comeback. But oh wait, now you can buy microwavable bacon. Even better.
3. Four Loko
This "blackout in a can" earned itself quite the reputation among broke-ass college students and hard-partiers. With 12% ABV and chock full of caffeine, taurine, and other speedy supplements, Four Loko was a fave among those looking to get utterly annihilated. Google it and you'll find pictures of people vomiting, urinating, and generally behaving in NSFW ways. There's even a website devoted to "Loko Stories" -- tales of black eyes, unprotected sex, and near-death experiences. Oh yeah, and the stuff could actually kill you. After several states banned the drink in 2010, bidding wars ensued online to score the last of the caffeine-laden concoctions. You can still buy the stuff in Florida, but with a new, less dangerous recipe.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
2. Frito-Lay's Wow Chips
Diarrhea, gas, cramping, and fecal incontinence are not words you want associated with your snack foods. Hence the unforgettable failure of Frito-Lay's Wow chip line. Half the calories of their counterparts, these new chips featured Olestra -- a fake fat with some nasty side effects. Complaints from consumers poured in, and the company was forced to add a warning label to the package. Later, after some modifications to the Olestra recipe, the brand was re-named "Light" and the warning discontinued. Wow is right.
1. New Coke
Generally regarded as the worst marketing mistake of the 20th Century, New Coke was a dismal failure from day one. The recipe change was a major misstep from an otherwise nearly flawless corporate giant (as far as marketing prowess, that is). It was on the market a mere 79 days before irate consumers' protests, angry letters, and all kinds of uprisings drove the company into submission. (If only people could get that passionate about politicians.) The lesson: Don't mess with perfection. Particularly when a population is already addicted to your sugary, caffeine-laden creation.