The New Currency in the Market is Nostalgia

By Sarah Whitten 

Cue “Eye of the Tiger,” this soda is making a comeback. After a 12-year hiatus, Surge is returning to shelves.

The citrus-flavored soft drink technically relaunched in 2014, when parent company Coca-Cola released it exclusively through, but now it’s getting a proper release.

Fanatics of the brand—who famously bought a billboard less than a mile from Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta that read “Dear Coke, we couldn’t buy Surge so we bought this billboard instead”—have taken to social media to share their excitement.

“There’s a higher order going on here and what we’re looking at is a company paying really close attention to a very passionate subset of their user base,” said Ken Harris, managing partner at Cadent Consulting Group. “And [they are] doing some very smart things with regard to mining data and seeing what the data is telling them and getting it to a point where they believe that by answering the call and accommodating the request they can drive business.”

First introduced in 1996 as a counter-product to Pepsi’s Mountain Dew, Surge had a lackluster initial run.

It stayed on the shelves for years, but Surge was outsold by its competitor nine-to-one.

In its debut year, 69 million cases of Surge were sold, according to Beverage Digest. In comparison, Mountain Dew sold 605.2 million cases, and Diet Mountain Dew sold 78 million cases in that same period of time.

By 2003, Coca-Cola halted production and discontinued Surge fountain syrup because of dwindling sales.

A dozen years later, the company is singing a very different tune.

“We were pleased with the excitement and demand for Surge during the initial launch,” said Scott Williamson, vice president of brand and business communications for Coca-Cola North America, in a statement. “We continue to explore the possibilities of Surge.”

Coca-Cola is not the only company to tap into consumer nostalgia in order to sell products. General Mills re-released its French Toast Crunch cereal last December, Mars began selling Crispy M&Ms, again, and Burger King brought back its Yumbo ham-and-cheese sandwich in 2014 after a 40-year hiatus.

And it is likely not the last brand to bring back an old favorite. Pepsi could be revitalizing Crystal Pepsi in the near future. The company shared a note with an avid fan of their long-discontinued soda, saying, “We definitely hear you and your followers, and we think you’ll all be happy with what’s in store.”

“There is nothing that Coca-Cola does that Pepsi-Cola doesn’t take seriously. And vice versa. That’s who they are… nothing is casual,” Harris said. “I am absolutely certain that Pepsi is watching this very closely because they have done a really good job of building their Dew franchise and in a world where soft drinks are not growing in single- and double-digits any more.”

Pepsi declined to comment.

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