If you’ve been wondering what’s been missing from your life these past few years — a feeling, a hope, a je ne sais quoi
— I think I know:
It’s lemon-lime soda. Or “pop,” for those in the Midwest.
An illuminating article in Advertising
the bible of the ad industry, points out that about a half-decade ago, the big soda companies dropped the ball on this once-beloved beverage and concentrated all their energies on their main brew: cola. After all, cola was getting hit from all sides. Bottled water was growing like gangbusters; iced tea was suddenly hip; and then there were cute fruit drinks with funny names and all those people drinking fancy coff ee. Even coconut water came on strong. And who was getting left behind?
The kings! Coke and Pepsi! Old-fashioned, brown and bubbly, they were in danger of going the way of the DVD or, God forbid, the video. Sure, their parent companies were busy buying up or bringing out all sorts of noncarbonated beverages to keep up with the times, but who wants to let a flagship flag? After all, it is not Dasani that is one of the bestknown brands in the world; it’s Dasani’s parent, Coca-Cola Co. So Coke decided to fight.
This explains not only the relentless Coke advertising everywhere but also the zillion new lines of Coke (so to speak): Coke with lime. Cherry Coke. Diet Cherry Coke. Diet Lime Cherry Coke Zero with Marshmallow Crunchies (coming soon). Coke put all its marketing muscle behind its biggest brand and let its loyal sidekick Sprite twist in the wind.
Meantime, Pepsi did pretty much the same thing. And as long as your chief rival isn’t advertising its lemon-lime drink, why should you? And so Sierra Mist’s ad budget was allowed to slide, too. So was, for the record, 7UP’s — not that anyone cares. (I can’t BELIEVE 7UP is but an afterthought in this category, considering that when I was a kid, it was THE “Uncola.” Now when you see a 7UP sign, it’s usually rusting above a down-andout drugstore that makes most of its money selling lottery tickets and off -brand pre-wrapped cinnamon buns. But I digress.) Result? We’ve bought several hundred million
fewer cans of lemon-lime soda these past few years, which is why you probably haven’t given it a lot of thought. But that’s about to change, for a very weird reason.
Sierra Mist is going “natural.” It’s a full-fledged yuppie drink. And what makes it so “natural”? It is sweetened with (sit down) SUGAR! “There’s a perception that high-fructose corn syrup is bad for you,” says Ad Age’s Natalie Zmuda. By contrast, good ol’ sugar seems bright and pure and, God help us, healthy. Go figure.
So Sierra is looking slick, which means Sprite will have to fight back, and 7UP will do what it can. (I still love you, Uncola!) And with the addition of the all-sugar version of Pepsi, called “Throwback,” and an all-sugar Mountain Dew on the shelves, we are finding ourselves in some sort of soda time machine.
Red Bull may be snorting. Snapple may be crackling. Poland Spring may be burbling all the way to the bank. But carbonated soda is not going down without a fight, and lemon-lime is coming to the rescue.
Let us raise a glass of something clear and bubbly and, for old times’ sake, wish it well.
Lenore Skenazy is the author of “Who’s the Blonde That Married What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can’t Remember Right Now” and “Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry).”