Everything You Need To Know About Clearly Canadian

Launched in 1988, Clearly Canadian is still etched in a certain generation's memories when they talk about their most nostalgia-inducing food and beverages. That was a period of time when companies were pumping out all kinds of wild stuff, from Dunkaroos to Totino's pizza rolls to Pop-Tarts cereal, and people were hungry for the newest and tastiest snacks they could get their hands on. Introduced as a "new-age" alternative to soda pop, Clearly Canadian reigned supreme for more than a decade until it was discontinued due to poor management decisions. However, after that huge disappointment, a crowd-funding campaign brought the beloved beverage back in 2015.

Now that flavored carbonated water is truly a thing, '90s kids (and everyone else) think it's really awesome to see Clearly Canadian back on store shelves, no matter what their fave flavor was. Even if you're handy enough to make your own sparkling water, there's still something to be said for the nostalgia of the sweet, fizzy blackberry (the number one seller) bubbles. Taste aside, it really is still all about that bottle, right?

Why do people love Clearly Canadian so much?

When Clearly Canadian was discontinued in 2009, it was heartbreaking to those of us that had fallen in love with the sparkling water beverage that was lighter and less sweet than traditional soda. Remember, there was very little like it at the time on the market. In the '90s, everyone was cutting out fat and zealously replacing it with sugar and carbs (just one of the incorrect things we believed about food back then). A flavored sparkling water beverage was almost unheard of — Crystal Pepsi was about as close as we got.

And never underestimate the power of nostalgia. The iconic pale blue bottle and the four original flavors (orchard peach, wild cherry, country raspberry, and mountain blackberry) were enough to get people reminiscing about walking to the corner store to pick up a bottle of their favorite. Global Heroes recounts the story of how the idea came to a Canadian entrepreneur to mix flavors with the crisp water from the Tillicum reservoir overlooking Vernon, B.C. He bottled it, added some fruit-flavored syrup and carbonation, and the rest is history.

History of Clearly Canadian

That intrepid entrepreneur, Donald Mason, was also the mastermind behind Jolt Cola (a highly caffeinated cola drink). When Jolt eventually (and quickly) tanked, he moved onto more health-focused beverages, the likes of which had barely even entered the market at the time. According to Funding Universe, Clearly Canadian saw revenues in excess of $61 million in 1991. All of this was managed with very little advertising, aside from a campaign that only used the slogan "Get Wild — Naturally."

Clearly Canadian almost immediately expanded its markets and started selling all over the world rather than just in North America. Clearly Canadian was a big hit in the UK as well as in Japan and Scandinavia. Unfortunately, multiple big beverage companies had already taken notice of its success and began launching similar products. Clearly Canadian tried launching more flavors and formulas, along with Clearly Tea (a lightly carbonated iced tea) and Clearly 2, a two-calorie version of the original. Neither gained much traction and were quickly discontinued. After legal struggles and financial losses, Clearly Canadian was finally shelved — for the time being.

What does it taste like?

First off, Clearly Canadian is sweet. If you've been drinking LaCroix or Bubly, you'll likely find that Clearly Canadian is closer to pop than soda water. It contains mineral water, cane sugar, natural flavors, and citric acid (for preservation), unlike what you might be used to if you've been downing unsweetened seltzers. Reading through online reviews, blackberry and peach are fan favorites, with the recent re-release of Summer Strawberry also making some '90s kids very happy, according to Fansided.

Clearly Canadian does have its place in-between sugary sodas and 0-carb flavored sparklers. Fan reviewers Not Entirely Arbitrary Review of Food admits that Mountain Blackberry is always the first choice because it reminds them of home. Fair enough, the Canadian reviewer is from the west coast, where blackberries are plentiful. Crisp and bubbly, with loads of fruit flavor, it still tastes like sparkling water without the cloying sweetness of a soda pop. All of the flavors are lightly sweetened versions of their actual namesakes without going over the top.

How is Clearly Canadian made?

The brand continues to base its marketing on the ideal of crisp, clean mountain water lightly flavored with fresh flavors. Nothing exotic, nothing over the top, and only four (non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, and identifiable) ingredients seem to be the calling card of the brand. Originally made in Vernon, British Columbia, the water was first sourced at the Tillicum reservoir and then shipped in container trucks before being combined with syrup and carbon dioxide for bubbles, according to an early article in the New York Times when the brand first launched.

Today, the brand's website says it actually "bottle at source" without giving much more information away. This makes it difficult to know much else about how it's made, with one exception — the water no longer comes from just the Tillicum reservoir and is instead sourced from "springs all over Canada." The brand goes on to say that the water comes from an aquifer deep in the Canadian wilderness, all the while stressing that the water is pure, healthy, and of the best quality.

Why does the bottle look like that?

The bottle is iconic, invoking the idea of clear, pure water, fresh from a mountain stream. But even more importantly, it feels great in hand. You might think it was designed to center the liquid's heft in your palm, just to be different. But there's more, and the reason is likely more esoteric than you might imagine.

On the website, Clearly Canadian goes into a few reasons why they use glass bottles, including all the good stuff for flavor and the environment. For instance, glass doesn't transfer flavors like plastic, can be endlessly recycled, and doesn't take up loads of other resources (80% of glass is eventually recycled). All that is terrific (yes, definitely!), but what about that shape? Simple. The founder, Donald Mason, is a huge baseball fan and wanted the bottle to feel like having a ball in your hand and nothing more than that. Next time you see one in the wild, palm it and see just how accurate that description is.

The draw of '90s nostalgia and consumers

With the current omnipresence of social media and Generation X finally starting to feel their age, nostalgia for the '90s is at an all-time high. Never underestimate the power of Gen Xers to bring back the sweet treats that fueled them through school lunches and hours of PlayStation gaming. Clearly, Canadian isn't the first discontinued food to make a comeback. Far from it, in fact. Those Dunakaroos we mentioned earlier? They came back in the summer of 2020 thanks to advocacy from the Kardashians and Chrissy Teigen.

But why did Clearly Canadian have such a draw? As we mentioned before, it was a bit of an outlier when it first appeared. Though not as sugary as traditional soda,  it still had loads of flavor and enough sweetness to quench the thirst of consumers looking for something lighter. And now, with the aforementioned Generation X turning into home bartenders, it's likely that Clearly Canadian will also become the quintessential mix when that '90s cocktail revival strikes (a Fizzy Fuzzy Navel sounds amazing to us).

Clearly Canadian and popular media

Once the brand was established and made strides in other countries, it also started finding success in the arena of product placement. Our beloved fruity fizzer found itself in the spotlight on TV a number of times, including Weekend at Bernie's, Jerry Maguire, Dawson's Creek, and The Vanishing. Clearly Canadian also made some remarkable appearances in the big three of 1990s pop culture phenomena — Seinfeld, Sex and the City, and Friends — basically cementing its status as the trendiest drink at the time.

Currently, the brand website does a lot of promotion for travel and art in Canada (including a list of the Best Canadian Songs about Canada by Canadians, if you're interested) as a way to keep a finger in the pop culture pie. They shout out all the big Canadian icons, including Drake and ice-fishing huts, and their connections to fizzy beverages. Since the 2015 revival, there doesn't seem to be anything on the internet revealing product placement in new media but given the popularity of the drink (and the photogenic appeal of the bottle) we hope it's only a matter of time.

Why was it discontinued?

The discontinuation of Clearly Canadian was a result of a string of bad business decisions, according to founder Donald Mason in an interview with the Toronto Star. For starters, the product was presented as a new-age healthy alternative to soda, but it turned out to have a pretty staggering amount of sugar and, per ounce, is nearly equal to Coke in calories. The brand also tried to spread too far, too fast, introducing 14 different flavors and nine different variations of the product, including a sport-beverage collab with another '90s bigshot, Reebok, according to an interview with the Toronto Star.

Then in 2000, the company decided to upgrade the size of the iconic bottles. Unfortunately, no one considered the increased shipping and production costs. On top of that, the new bottles couldn't fit on shelves, making it difficult for stores to stock. In the interview with the Toronto Star, Mason calls it a "bonehead move," in possibly the most Canadian quote ever. The brand would need to pay for extra inches on store shelves, causing huge losses in profit. Production officially ceased in late 2009.

Dedicated fans brought it back

However, it didn't take long for legions of fans to get their sweet fizz-craving act together. By 2013, there were rumblings on the internet of people trying to work out a way to bring Clearly Canadian back. In 2015, an Indiegogo campaign was launched by the company's new owner, Robert R. Khan. Khan is an American venture capitalist who decided to bring back the sparkling water beverage based on both demand and his own nostalgia, according to News-Press. In the article, he also thanks fans of the drink for making the comeback a reality.

The crowdfunding project, The Clearly Canadian Pre-Order Campaign, was a simple one. Customers could pre-order a case of 12 bottles for $30 (USD), to be delivered once the campaign reached its $50,000 goal. They surpassed that goal within 36 hours, and the whole project just continued to grow. In total, customers ordered over 40,000 cases. In a story by The Daily Hive, the company also revealed that Summer Strawberry would be re-introduced if $250,000 was raised. The campaign surpassed that, and the company added strawberry as well as unflavored sparkling water to its lineup.

Clearly Canadian's little brother, Orbitz

While Clearly Canadian definitely made its mark on consumers, its younger addition didn't quite get there and just might be considered one of the biggest candy failures of all time. Launched by parent company Clearly Canadian in 1997, Orbitz was a non-carbonated, fruit-flavored beverage filled with colorful gelatin balls. If you're a fan of popping boba, this might sound pretty great. Sadly, the whole concept of the drink was that the chewy spheres remained "in orbit" the entire time you were drinking it rather than slowly sinking to the bottom. In order to accomplish this, the juice was fortified with quite a bit of gelatin, making it extremely unctuous.

The thick liquid made the bottle behave a bit like a lava lamp when you gave it a shake. Kids loved it, but adults (the consumers with actual money) were turned off by the thick liquid, the unpopular flavors (including the overwrought pineapple-banana-cherry-coconut), and the incredibly unfortunate tagline, "The Drink with Balls."

Clearly Canadian vs. other sparkling water beverages

As we mentioned earlier, Clearly Canadian was introduced as a new-age alternative to sugary soft drinks, but the reality wasn't quite all that. Sparkling water beverages on the market today have little to no sweeteners added, although some, like Spindrift, are infused with a touch of juice for extra flavor. Clearly Canadian does contain less sugar than a regular bottle of soda, but it still packs a bit of a sugary punch. Depending on the flavor, you're looking at anywhere from 15 to 30 grams of sugar per bottle. Although, compared to some mineral waters and club soda beverages, it contains no sodium.

In an article by Spy that ranked nine different brands of sparkling water, Clearly Canadian was called the "best splurge." Customers have commented that it is a little pricey but judging by the pics on social media with the hashtag Clearly Canadian is Back, no one really seems to mind. On the brand's website, the company claims that the blackberry flavor was purchased more than all other flavors combined in the crowdfunding resurrection.

'90s kids, try using it in a cocktail for a grownup nostalgic kick

While you're traveling back in time, why whip up a few '90s-style white wine spritzers? It's not just your grandma's drink anymore. If you've spent any time perusing the shelves (and shelves) full of canned beverages, you'll have noticed that wine cocktails have reappeared in a big way. Why not pick up a few blue bottles and mix up your own, using flavors you actually like? Float a couple of actual berries in there, snap a few pics by the pool, and you've conquered social media.

Ranch water is another favorite making a huge comeback. In fact, we think it might even be the next hard seltzer, so get on the trend early and start whipping up your own. Traditional ranch water uses seltzer, tequila, and lime juice, so give the flavored versions a pass and use the natural soda here. Otherwise, mix and match to your heart's content to make as many sparkling cocktails as you desire. According to the brand, any flavor of Clearly Canadian mixed with vodka makes a "Vodkanadian," so anyone can consider themselves an honorary Canuck while sipping one.

What is the Clearly Canadian Community Challenge?

The Clearly Canadian brand has espoused the motto "good thought, good words, good deeds", since the beginning. On Canada Day (July 1st) 2020, it also established the Direct Giving Campaign in order to give back after being rescued by fans of the brand, stating on the website that it was time to give back in the same way. In an interview with the Financial Post, CEO Paul Teppernan admits that the success of Clearly Canadian's relaunch rests almost solely on the support of its fanbase, saying that the "multi-generational pent-up demand" for the product has driven sales beyond what was expected.

Through the Clearly Community Challenge, the brand aims to provide support to various crowdfunding campaigns that also align with Clearly Canadian's core values. Encompassing the categories of "people that need support, things that need to exist, or things we just love," the brand selects projects from four different crowd-sourcing platforms. So far, the brand has supported the Black Lives Matter Student Solidarity Fund, Feed The Frontline Canada, Affinity Dragons (an LGBTQ+ initiative), Solace House, and quite a few more missions. The brand continues to seek out projects to support that match up with its values and ideals.