Whatever Happened To Pepsi Blue?

There have been countless failed variations of popular snacks and drinks throughout the years. Whether they're created for a special event, to match a competitor, or as a collaboration, these things tend to come and go. Every now and then one sticks with the collective conscience of an era and leaves us asking, "What happened?"

One of those products is PepsiCo's Pepsi Blue. The abnormally bright blue drink was introduced in 2002 as a "berry cola fusion" (via Snack History). It was partially inspired by PepsiCo's other brightly-colored soda triumph, Mountain Dew Code Red (via USA Today). It may have also been introduced as a way to compete with PepsiCo's persistent nemesis, Coca-Cola. According to USA Today, the bright blue soda was introduced just two months after Vanilla Coke was launched that May. According to Snack History, Pepsi Blue did well in its first year as it sold 17 million cases, but it would disappear almost completely from store shelves by 2003 before being discontinued the following year.

Pepsi Blue was mysteriously discontinued

It's unclear what the cause of this was, but there are a couple of possibilities. The first explanation may be diminishing sales. As mentioned above, Pepsi Blue sold about 17 million cases in its first year, but sales were already beginning to lag by its second year. According to Snack History, they were only able to move about 5 million cases in 2003. The novelty of a blue Pepsi may have worn off for many consumers and PepsiCo was quick to see the writing on the wall.

Another reason may be a controversial blue dye used in the soda. According to USA Today, the neon blue that would stain consumers' tongues came from the use of Blue No. 1, also known as "Brilliant Blue" (via Scientific American). Though never prohibited in the United States, ABC News notes that it was banned in some European countries, with studies (including one from 2004) suggesting a link between the dye and an increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms. The dye was originally derived from coal tar, but it is now made with an oil base. As a result of this change, it has since been deemed safe for use by the European Union (via Scientific American and ABC News).

Along with many other things from the early 2000s, USA Today reports that Pepsi Blue made a comeback in May 2021 for a limited run. While it was welcomed by ecstatic fans, it left just as quickly as it did nearly two decades before.