Nostalgia can be a tricky thing, turning things of even the most modest quality into a beloved icon of your childhood after it’s been gone for long enough. And when it comes to food, few things will make you say, “Are you really a ’90s kid?” more often than a favorite snack, candy or beverage that was once an integral part of your life only to fade away over the years.
Fortunately, you’re not alone: There are a lot of people out there who are interested in reconnecting with their childhood food favorites. This includes more than enough people to launch a series of social media campaigns that have prompted major corporations to reintroduce at least a limited run of products and brands they had laid to bed years earlier. Unfortunately for some, Coca-Cola will never remake its signature cola that included an illegal stimulant, but that doesn’t have to stop all your old favorites from making a comeback.
Year Discontinued: 2014
Introduced in 2005 by beverage company Phusion Projects, Four Loko was sort of like a beer in that it had alcohol in it, but it just had a lot more of it, typically ranging from 8 to 14 percent. It was also sort of like coffee due to its caffeine, but it just had a lot more of it. Put them together and you get a drink that was banned in several states before getting forced off the shelves entirely in 2014 when its parent company reached an agreement with 20 attorney generals to end production and sale.
To quote the Attorney General of Illinois in 2014: “[Phusion Projects LLC] marketed and sold flavored malt beverages, including Four Loko, in violation of consumer protection and trade practice statutes by promoting the drink to underage youth, promoting dangerous and excessive consumption of Four Loko and failing to disclose to consumers the effects and consequences of drinking alcoholic beverages combined with caffeine.”
There is still a version you can get today, but it’s not the good (bad) stuff that earned all the notoriety.
Year Discontinued: 2012
Everything you need to know about Dunkaroos is right there in the name. You would “dunk” the cookies in the frosting that they came with, allowing you to control your frosting portion in a way an Oreo can never hope to match. And the cookies were shaped like “roos,” complete with a kangaroo named “Sydney” before transitioning to Duncan the Daredevil (who went by “Dunk” for short).
The product was introduced by General Mills in 1992 and was a favorite for kids’ lunches throughout the 1990s until it was discontinued in 2012.
That said, if you still want Dunkaroos, don’t care about the original branding and don’t have strong opinions about major corporations playing a little fast and loose with intellectual property laws, you can always go with the Dunk ‘N Crunch option available at Walmart. It’s still cookies you dunk into the supplied frosting, just without being shaped like any Australian mammals.
Year Discontinued: 2009
Clearly, there were few flavored sparkling water brands on either side of the border that compared to Clearly Canadian, which was introduced in 1987. The clear soda came in a variety of flavors and quickly became a favorite beverage of those young and old in the 1990s. However, the company would discontinue production in 2009.
Luckily for the beverage’s loyal fans, the story does not end there. Clearly Canadian came roaring back into people’s consciousness after a January 2015 crowdfunding campaign allowed customers to preorder cases of the drink in an effort to spark production again. The campaign hit its goal of 25,000 cases by March, but issues at the company meant that some were still waiting for the product in mid-December 2017. Lucky for them, the drink was back on shelves at stores in the U.S.
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Year Discontinued: 2006
Although there’s clearly a variety of options for puffed snacks covered in tangy cheese powder, there was only one Cheez Ball. Devoid of any corners or unique shapes, these simple globes were a popular snack in the 1990s before Planters discontinued them in 2006.
However, anyone with a hankering for some is in luck: Planters launched a limited run of Cheez Balls in July 2018 — available on Amazon or Walmart.com — so you can return to picking these out of your molars as soon as they’re delivered.
French Toast Crunch
Year Discontinued: 2006
If you always struggled with selecting from your myriad of breakfast options, General Mills’ French Toast Crunch was the product for you, taking French toast and turning it into a cereal. Modeled after the successful Cinnamon Toast Crunch brand, French Toast Crunch debuted in 1995 and quickly worked its way into the hearts of American consumers.
It was short-lived, though, as the product would only last about 11 years until it was discontinued in 2006. However, an outpouring of love from fans on social media led General Mills to reintroduce the brand in 2014.
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Year Discontinued: 2003
Launched in 1994 with a massive $30 million ad campaign, Fruitopia was Coca-Cola’s answer to the fast-rising popularity of Snapple. It didn’t work, though, as Coke was still losing to both Snapple and Perrier in the alternative beverage category. It’s also hard to see how it was anything less than a real slap in the face to Minute Maid, a brand that Coca-Cola owns. Either way, Coke started phasing Fruitopia out in 2003.
Year Discontinued: 2002
The citrus-flavored Surge hit the market in 1996 as a response to Mountain Dew, and quickly gained popularity among a cadre of loyal fans. Notably not an especially large cadre as the lack of sales led to the drink being discontinued in 2002.
However, once again, this piece of 1990s nostalgia is experiencing a, ahem, surge in popularity with a social media campaign wanting to bring it back, which resulted in Coca-Cola partnering with Amazon in 2014 to allow fans to order the drink online again.
Hi-C Ecto Cooler
Year Discontinued: 2001
Among the many, many product tie-ins created around the 1984 classic “Ghostbusters” was a neon green drink meant to resemble the green discharges of the popular Slimer character. You know, for those of you who watched that movie and thought, “What I wouldn’t give to be able to drink that slimy stuff.” Launched in 1987, Hi-C Ecto Cooler was quite popular in the 1990s, but that was about it. The drink was discontinued in 2001.
However, like many of the other foods on this list, that was only the case until the power of nostalgia carried Ecto Cooler back to shelves, once again by the film “Ghostbusters.” This “Ghostbusters” was the 2016 reboot starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, though. Ecto Cooler’s second run came to a close soon after, but fans did get another chance to guzzle that sweet, sweet slime.
Year Discontinued: 2001
Food products are the most fun when they add an extra layer of interaction to their consumptions. At least, that’s the principle behind Squeezit, a series of fruity drinks that came in a plastic bottle and encouraged consumers to squeeze the juice out.
General Mills launched the product in 1985 — and added fun cartoon characters for different flavors in 1992 — but the drink’s popularity had a shelf life. Squeezit was discontinued in 2001.
The Arch Deluxe
Year Discontinued: 2000
If you’ve ever looked around a McDonald’s and thought, “You know what’s missing here is a quiet, understated elegance,” then the fast-food chain has your back. Or at least it did for several years in the 1990s when it rolled out the Arch Deluxe with a $150 million to $200 million ad campaign, the most expensive fast-food ad campaign in history.
McDonald’s — long associated with children through its Happy Meals and cartoon characters — was looking to add something to the menu that adults would like. Adults did not like it. Nobody did. The burger never took hold and ultimately died out within a few years. The fast-food chain announced at the start of this year that the Arch Deluxe is being reintroduced as the “Archburger” at select locations. The Archburger will use fresh, not frozen meat, a potato flour bun and Archsauce to once again appeal to sophisticated burger aficionados.
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Donald Duck Orange Juice
Year Discontinued: 1998
Lake Wales, Fla., is home to Citrus World, the orange growers collective that produces Florida’s Natural juice. However, starting in 1941, the company sold juice under the Donald Duck brand through a licensing agreement with The Walt Disney Co. It was a natural fit, of course, as the first thing most people think when they hear “orange juice” is “animated water fowl.”
Citrus World would ultimately drop the Donald Duck branding in 1998, but you can still find Donald Duck orange juice on Amazon if you’re feeling nostalgic.
Year Discontinued: Mid-1990s
Of course, one of the biggest issues with Pepsi would be that you can’t see through it. So, in 1992 Pepsi launched Crystal Pepsi in test markets before rolling it out nationwide a year later. It tasted like a regular Pepsi, but it was clear. That would appear to be the sum total of the marketing pitch, so it might not be incredibly surprising that it was discontinued only a couple of years later.
However, this is another example of the social media era allowing a critical mass of nostalgic fans to convince Pepsi to bring it back. YouTuber Kevin “L.A. Beast” Strahle launched a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #BringBackCrystalPepsi and got 33,000 signatures on a Change.org petition, prompting Pepsi to respond by offering a limited return for the clear beverage.
Year Discontinued: Early 1990s
The perfect burger is an orchestration of different ingredients coming together in harmony, but it has to be eaten almost as soon as it’s made. Otherwise, the cold, crisp ingredients — lettuce and tomato — will cool the nice, hot, juicy burger even as the burger is warming those cool ingredients. That was the logic behind the McD.L.T., the McDonald’s burger that came in a patented “Double Clam Shell Container” that had separate compartments for the hot and cool ingredients to keep them both tasting fresh for longer.
Unfortunately for McDonald’s, the polystyrene used in said containers came under fire from environmentalists in the 1980s, leading to the chain switching over to paper wrappers and ditching the McD.L.T.
One fascinating factoid about the McD.L.T. is that its 1985 commercials featured Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame years before he hit it big. That would be Jason Alexander singing and dancing. With hair.
Pepsi AM Breakfast Soda
Year Discontinued: 1990
Everyone loves a nice, refreshing soda. It’s just really annoying how you have to wait until midday to have one or risk getting funny looks from people. This was the void that PepsiCo was trying to fill in 1989 with the launch of Pepsi AM, a breakfast soda that had 28 percent more caffeine than a regular Pepsi. Granted, that was still 77 percent less than a cup of coffee, but who wants a cup of that first thing in the morning?
As you might have noticed, it did not catch on. Pepsi AM was discontinued the next year.
SevenUp Candy Bars
Year Discontinued: 1979
If you’re getting really excited about the potential to eat a candy bar that tastes just like your favorite pop, there’s bad news — the SevenUp candy bar was actually released for the first time in the 1930s and is not associated with the beverage. The name refers to the fact that it has seven different sections, each with a different center.
The SevenUp bar would last until 1979 when the soft drink company started putting pressure on the candy bar for using its trademark. But if you’re still wanting to swap SevenUp stories, there’s an entire Facebook page dedicated to the candy.
Fenn’s Butter Brickle Ice Cream
Year Discontinued: 1971
Fenn’s was a South Dakota-based ice cream company that operated for almost three-quarters of a century after being founded by brothers Henry C. Fenn and James W. Fenn in the late 19th century. They would end up inventing the toffee-based Butter Brickle flavor of ice cream that enjoyed considerable popularity along with a variety of other candies produced by Fenn’s.
Unfortunately, the company would ultimately fold in 1971, but the Butter Brickle recipe lives on. It was acquired by Leaf, Inc. (the maker of Heath Bars) after Fenn’s went out of business. You can still get Butter Brickle ice cream today, even if it’s not the original Fenn’s.
Whistles and Daisys
Year Discontinued: 1967 for Daisys, 1972 for Whistles
Bugles have remained a popular snack for decades, as both a tasty treat and a stylish alternative to expensive nail salon manicures. However, relatively few people might remember that they were initially rolled out as part of a trio of products that also included Whistles and Daisys. In fact, released in 1964, the three were the first snacks produced by General Mills and represented the results of some 12 years of research. That’s right, someone spent over a decade in a laboratory working on Bugles.
Although they also came up with Whistles and Daisys, the snacks didn’t find the sort of snug fit with the American consumer that Bugles do with your fingers. Daisys were discontinued in 1967 and Whistles soldiered on until 1972 before they were discontinued.
Click through to read more about classic brands that are in trouble.
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Priscilla Aguilera contributed to the reporting for this article.
Some of the photos used are representational.