Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's Like A Party In My Mouth And The Mythbusters Are Invited

Netflix recently and rapidly cancelled their proposed separate DVD rental service, Qwikster. Qwikster would have handled the DVD-by-mail services while Netflix would concentrate on online streaming.

In response, Aimee Groth and Jay Yarow of Business Insider supplied a list of other products whose lives were nasty, brutish, and short. Thing is, they go into very little detail on any of their list. (And you already know about several of the items anyway. New Coke. Edsel. Crystal Pepsi. McDonald's Arch Deluxe.) The piece smacks of knocking off early for lunch.

So courtesy of Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo's Misfortune 500, let's add one to the list.

In March 1984, the Adams Natural Beverage Company rolled out Napa Natural, which they advertised as "the world's first natural soft drink" because they used fruit juice. Now, the Mountain Dew I'm nursing right now has fruit juice as well- the ingredients list 'concentrated orange juice'- but with Napa Natural, they were talking 67% fruit juice, and no preservatives. The concept was a hit- it's soda, but HEALTHY soda! How could it lose?

And for six months, it didn't lose. Napa Natural flew off the shelves, beating out a sales record set by Perrier (my best guess is that it's for American sales of upscale drinks in the first six months). It was an explosive success.

And beginning in September 1984, therein laid the problem.

You see, when wine goes into a wine bottle, that wine is flat. It's basically grape juice. But over time, that grape juice ferments, helped along by yeast that can come from several sources, including the grapes themselves. (You know that little dusting you see on grapes sometimes? That's called bloom. It's got yeast in it.) During fermentation, carbon dioxide is released, increasing the pressure in the bottle, which is why you need to work to get the cork off.

Adams Natural- which it must be noted was based in Napa Valley, California- somehow let that little detail slip their minds when they put on the shelves a beverage with enough fruit juice in it to be able to ferment. The Napa Natural Bottles were not wine bottles. They couldn't take the fermentation buildup, and eventually, the Napa Natural bottles went kablooey right there on the store shelves.

Cue the recall and two-month-long retooling of Napa Natural to bring the fruit juice content down to 51 and then 30 percent. It didn't matter what they lowered it to, though. Your product blows up on store shelves once and you can never sell that store anything ever again. The stores didn't even want to stock it now.

Meanwhile, Pepsi came out with Slice, containing 10% fruit juice.

That was pretty much that. Adams Natural made an attempt to relaunch Napa Natural, but with a bad reputation and Pepsi deciding to compete head-to-head, they never stood a chance. The last report on it comes from October 1986, after a deal to sell the company to Schweppes fell through and the owners were looking to get out any way they could.

Of course, blowing yourself up and getting run out of the market by Pepsi is one way to get out.

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