10 Foods That (Thankfully) Flopped
by Terri Schlichenmeyer
From Celery Jell-O to chocolate French fries, here are ten foods that didn't have a very long shelf-life.
1. Coffee-Flavored Jell-O (Celery, Too!)
In 1918, the makers of Jell-O introduced a new flavor: coffee. Its release was ostensibly based on the logic that, since lots of people like to drink coffee with dessert, they'd be game for combining the two after-dinner treats. Not the case. The company soon realized if anyone wants dessert coffee, they're going to have a cup of it. In fact, if anyone wants coffee at all, they're going to have a cup of it. Not surprisingly, this realization came about the time they yanked the product off the shelves. Coffee wasn't Jell-O's only misstep: Cola-flavored Jell-O was sold for about a year starting in 1942, and for a brief while, the clear, wiggly dessert was sold in celery and chocolate flavors, too.
Any company smart enough to bless mankind with sprayable whipped cream—the sort that promotes direct-to-mouth feeding—has got to know a thing or two about immediate gratification. But sadly, the makers of Reddi-wip were unable to meld their keen understanding of human laziness with one of processed meat. They figured, if you're cooking breakfast in the morning and you've got a hankering for bacon, why dirty up a pan you'll only have to clean later? The solution: foil-wrapped Reddi-Bacon you could pop into your toaster for piping-hot pork in minutes.
While it seemed perfect for the busy 1970s household, the absorbent pad designed to soak up the dripping grease tended to leak, creating not only a fire hazard, but also a messy (if not totally ruined) toaster. Ultimately, the product lasted about as long as it took to cook; the company scrapped it before it went to market nationwide.
3. Cereal Mates
Sometimes, new products fail because they're simply bad ideas (ahem, New Coke). Other times, it's because they're just impossible to market. Such was the case for Cereal Mates. Beating the dead horse of super-convenient breakfast foods, Kellogg's introduced Cereal Mates in 1997. The idea was simple: a small box of cereal, a container of specially packaged milk (no refrigeration required!), and a plastic spoon. It was the perfect A.M. answer for the person on the go who enjoys warm milk on cereal. Trying to patch up one mistake with another, Kellogg's then moved the product to the dairy section, where no sane person looks for cereal. On top of all that was the price. At about $1.50 for only four ounces of the stuff, Cereal Mates was deemed too expensive for most consumers. After two years, Kellogg's pulled it from the shelves.
4. Flower-Flavored PEZ
No, that's not a typo. Although it would be equally disgusting, we're talking about flower, not flour. Introduced in the late 1960s, flower-flavored PEZ was designed to appeal to the hippie generation—complete with a groovy, psychedelic dispenser. But even in the decade of free love, no love could be found for the flavor power of flower. Floral scents make for great perfume, but nobody eats perfume, and apparently, there's a reason why. The flower version flopped, and became the next addition to PEZ's long and disturbing list of flavor failures. Since its introduction in 1927, the company has also sold coffee, licorice, eucalyptus, menthol, and cinnamon flavors.
5. "I Hate Peas!"
For as long as children have been shoving Brussels sprouts under mashed potatoes and slipping green beans to the dog, parents have been hunting desperately for a way to end the vegetable discrimination. Finally, in the 1970s, American Kitchen Foods, Inc. came to the rescue (or at least tried) with the release of "I Hate Peas!" Since kids love French fries so much, the company decided that disguising peas in a fry-shaped form was a sure-fire way to trick tots into getting their vitamins. Not a chance. Children all over America saw through the ruse. After all, a pea is a pea is a pea, and the name of the product was more than apropos, no matter what it looked like. There were other thinly disguised vegetables in the company's "I Hate" line, but kids hated those, too.
6. The Chicken Dinner Candy Bar
Fortunately for gastrointestinal tracts worldwide, this candy bar didn't actually include chicken in its list of ingredients. And equally lucky for Sperry Candy Co., which introduced the "treat" in the 1920s, consumers actually figured this one out on their own. The company introduced the chocolate-and-peanut butter bar right before the onset of the Depression, hoping the name would give consumers the feeling they were about to have a big home-cooked meal at Grandma's house—hence the juicy roast chicken on the advertisements. Strangely, the gimmick worked, even well after the economy recovered, and Chicken Dinner candy bars were available until the 1960s. Does this mean it qualifies as a true marketplace flop? No. Did we put it on the list anyway because it sounds like it really should have been? Absolutely.
7. Heublein's Wine & Dine
In the mid-1970s, Heublein introduced Wine & Dine, an upscale, easy-to-make dinner that included a small bottle of vino. How refined. How decadent. How confusing. Consumers knew Heublein for their liquor and wines, so how were they supposed to know the wine included in Wine & Dine was an ingredient for the pasta sauce? Hasty consumers who didn't read the directions closely ended up pouring the contents of the bottle into a nice glass and getting a less-than-pleasant mouthful of salted wine.
8. Funky Fries
In 2002, hoping to follow the success of Heinz's new "kiddie" ketchup versions (in green and purple), Ore-Ida introduced Funky Fries: chocolate-flavored, cinnamon-flavored, and blue-colored French fries. An awful lot of money was sunk into the product, but after a year of marketing, consumers still found the idea funky—in the bad way. Funky Fries were pulled off the shelves in 2003, and images of blue fries with green ketchup were once again relegated to the world of Warhol-esque pop art.
9. Pepsi A.M.
Creating a super-caffeinated soda worked well for the makers of Red Bull, but not for the folks at Pepsi. With 25 percent more caffeine than a cup of Joe, PepsiCo introduced the cola-flavored product in 1989, only to discover that most people just couldn't bring themselves to drink soda with their cornflakes. For those who wanted a Pepsi in the morning, regular Pepsi did just fine, thankyouverymuch. Pepsi A.M., like the coffee-flavored Pepsi Kona before it, was scrapped after just a few months.
10. Gerber Singles
At some point in time, almost every adult has tasted baby food and discovered that the stuff isn't half bad. But that doesn't mean people want to make a meal out of it. For some reason, Gerber had to learn that lesson the hard way. In 1974, the company released Gerber Singles, small servings of food meant for single adults, packaged in jars that were almost identical to those used for baby food. It didn't take long for Gerber execs to figure out that most consumers, unless they were less than a year old, couldn't get used to eating a pureed meal out of a jar—particularly one depressingly labeled "Singles." Baby food for grown-ups was pulled from the marketplace shortly after its birth.
This article originally appeared in the March-April 2005 issue of mental_floss magazine.