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12 Discontinued Products From Coca-Cola and Pepsi

You've most likely heard of the grand (and failed) experiments that were New Coke and Crystal Pepsi. But throughout the years, both the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo have played around with their product lines, resulting in a number of other short-lived, now-discontinued soft drinks. Here are 12 examples. 

1. OK Soda

In 1993, Coca-Cola wanted to capitalize on the growing counterculture movement associated with the cynical members of "Generation X." Marketing executive Sergio Zyman came up with OK Soda, which was a soft drink intended to appeal to the movement’s anti-corporate sensibilities. (Although to this day, some conspiracy theorists believe OK Soda was a plot by the CIA to endear corporate America to Gen Xers, thereby making them more conservative.) OK Soda had its own manifesto and "unconventional" marketing campaign that revolved around the idea that “Things are going to be OK.” The soda company even hired alternative cartoonists Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) and Charles Burns (Black Hole) to design soda cans and commercials for the brand. Sadly, Coca-Cola pulled the plug after sales fell short of expectations in most of its test markets in 1995. Today, OK Soda cans and box art can be found on eBay for about $50 a can.

Fun fact: Sergio Zyman was the same executive who launched New Coke in 1985.   

2. Lemon-Lime Slice

Pepsi introduced Lemon-Lime Slice in an effort to compete with 7-Up and Coca-Cola’s Sprite in 1984. Sales of the original Slice were so strong that Pepsi introduced more flavors and varieties, such as Apple, Fruit Punch, Grape, Passionfruit, Peach Glaze, Mandarin Orange, Pineapple, Strawberry, Cherry Cola, "Red,” Cherry-Lime, and Dr. Slice—Pepsi’s answer to Dr. Pepper. In May 1987 Slice had 3.2% of the soda market, but a little over a year later that dropped to below 2 percent. The problem was it was relatively expensive to produce, and Coca-Cola was able to come out with a competing product (Minute Maid Orange soda) that was cheaper to make and customers simply preferred the taste of. Although some varieties of Slice are available at soda fountains, the original Lemon-Lime Slice was discontinued and replaced with Pepsi’s Sierra Mist in 2003. 

3. Beverly

In 1969, Coca-Cola introduced a carbonated, non-alcoholic apéritif for the Italian market called Beverly. (Apéritifs are generally alcoholic beverages served before a meal in order to stimulate one's appetite.) Beverly remained on shelves throughout the country for 30 years, but was discontinued when the company consolidated its Italian bottling facilities in 2009. Interested in sampling some? The sophisticated soda is available at various World of Coca-Cola museums throughout the United States. A word of warning, however: Americans are generally not used to its bitter taste, so you may not be a fan. (YouTube is full of funny reactions to Beverly soda.)  

4. Mountain Dew Sport

After extensive test marketing in 1989, Pepsi introduced Mountain Dew Sport the following year. The beverage was a Mountain Dew-flavored sports drink with only two calories. Its diet counterpart was available with no calories, but with the same Mountain Dew taste. Pepsi created Mountain Dew Sport to compete with Gatorade, but discontinued it due to low sales in 1991. That same year, the company came back with All Sport, a slightly reformulated version of Mountain Dew Sport, which Pepsi sold throughout the '90s. However, when Pepsi purchased Gatorade in 2001, they made a deal with the FTC that they’d sell off All Sport in an effort to increase competition in the market. They sold it to a small manufacturer, who got bought by Big Red, who made a deal with the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which relaunched All Sport in 2009. Which means technically, you can still purchase the soda grandchild of Mountain Dew Sport.

5. Coca-Cola C2

At the height of the low-carb diet craze, Coca-Cola brought Coca-Cola C2 to the Japanese, American, and Canadian markets in 2004. The new soft drink boasted half the sugar, calories, and carbohydrates of regular Coca-Cola, and to hawk it, the company launched an aggressive ad campaign with radio and TV spots featuring Queen’s “I Want To Break Free” and The Rolling Stones’ "You Can't Always Get What You Want." But after a few years of disappointing sales, Coca-Cola discontinued C2 in 2007. 

6. Pepsi Wild Bunch

During the summer of 1991, Pepsi released three new flavors that it claimed enhanced the taste of its flagship soda. Dubbed Pepsi Wild Bunch, the soft drink attempted to capture the taste of summer with Strawberry Burst, Tropical Chill, and Raging Razzberry. One major downside: Pepsi Wild Bunch came in a three-pack, so if you were craving just one flavor, too bad: you were stuck with two more. The beverage was only made available in a few test markets throughout the United States, until Pepsi discontinued it less than a year later.   

7. Sprite Remix

In 2003, Coca-Cola introduced Sprite Remix to cater to what marketing execs saw as an "emerging" hip-hop and DJ remix subculture. The beverage was similar to regular Sprite, but with an added citrus or fruit kick. Sprite Remix was eventually available in three varieties: Tropical, Berryclear, and Aruba Jam.

Coca-Cola later released a “do-it-yourself” version of Sprite Remix, which featured a flavor packet with a can of regular Sprite. Those flavors included Grape, Vanilla, and Cherry. Sprite Remix was discontinued due to poor sales in 2005. But this year, reports came out that in certain markets, Sprite Tropical—dropping the "Remix," apparently—was back on store shelves in parts of the southeastern U.S.

8. Pepsi Natural

In 2008, Pepsi debuted Pepsi Natural, a soda free of artificial flavoring, colorings, preservatives, and sweeteners. Made with lightly sparkling water, the beverage boasted natural caramel, apple extract, kola nut extract, and natural sugar cane instead of high-fructose corn syrup. Pepsi Natural was even packaged in a sleek 12-ounce glass bottle and was only available in premium grocery stores and natural food aisles. Pepsi Natural, similar to Pepsi Raw in the United Kingdom, was discontinued in 2010, due to—you guessed it—poor sales. 

9. Vault

To compete with Pepsi’s Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola started stocking American grocery stores with Vault (and other Vault varieties) in 2005. Vault was a citrus soda and energy drink hybrid marketed primarily towards teenage boys and young men. In 2006, Vault was a big part of the Super Bowl XL pregame show with a number of TV spots declaring that it “Drinks like a soda, kicks like an energy drink." Coca-Cola also produced Vault Zero, Grape Vault, Peach Vault, and Vault Red Blitz before discontinuing the entire beverage line in 2011. 

10. Diet Pepsi Jazz

Introduced in 2006, Diet Pepsi Jazz was a diet soda available in three different flavors: Black Cherry and French Vanilla, Strawberries and Cream, and Caramel Cream. Pepsi announced that the soft drink was “The New Sound of Cola” in its ad campaign, before discontinuing the jazzy new addition in 2009. 

11. Coca-Cola BlāK

Ever wish your soda tasted more like coffee? For a brief period of time starting in 2006, Coca-Cola made your dream a reality by releasing the coffee-flavored Coca-Cola BlāK. The beverage company worked for two years developing the recipe in the hopes of tapping into the premium coffee market. Coca-Cola officially discontinued Coca-Cola BlāK in 2007, but continued to sell off its remaining stock into the following year.

Pepsi, for its part, sold coffee-flavored sodas Pepsi Kona and Pepsi Cappuccino in a few test markets during the '90s. 

12. Pepsi A.M.

To capitalize on the growing soda-as-coffee-substitute trend in the '80s, Pepsi released Pepsi A.M. in 1989. A soft drink meant to be consumed during breakfast, Pepsi boasted that it featured 28% more caffeine than regular Pepsi (which was still 77% less than coffee). Pepsi A.M. was discontinued due to low sales in 1990. 

The Coca-Cola Company never released a “morning” variety of Coca-Cola, but the soft drink multinational began hawking the idea of soda for breakfast with a “Coca-Cola in the Morning” marketing campaign.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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