Whatever Happened To SURGE?

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Only '90s kids will get this –- the snacks, that is. The decade saw an era of such iconic treats as Dunkaroos, French Toast Crunch, and Heinz EZ Squirt Colored Ketchup. Some of these nostalgic snacks were so beloved by now-grown-up fans that they've enjoyed comebacks on modern grocery store shelves. Among these comebacks is SURGE soda: a middle-schooler's heedless, passionate fantasy and a parent's worst nightmare.

SURGE was first released in 1997, per The Manual, as Coca-Cola's response to Pepsi's Mountain Dew. SURGE is a citrus-flavored, energy-drink-adjacent soda packed with maltodextrin; an additive many athletes use as a dietary supplement, per Medical News Today. The marketing campaign was a glorious spectacle starring teenage angst, total abandon, and reckless physical expression at least as much as the drink itself. One commercial from 1997 depicts a group of young men on a city street, rapidly climbing over discarded couches and furniture, racing each other to reach a single bottle of SURGE. Another ad from 1998 shows another group of young men, this time battling each other for the drink before eventually grabbing the bottle, spraying the carbonated foam across the camera lens, and screaming while heavy guitar music plays. Truly a triumph of the human spirit.

Despite its seemingly successful run, Coca-Cola discontinued SURGE in 2003. Perhaps the beverage's sales didn't meet revenue expectations  too many adolescents ended up with broken wrists, or asked their folks for a skateboard one too many times. So, whatever happened to it?

SURGE is back... kind of

Since it was pull from shelves in 2003, the drink accrued something of a cult following. In fact, grassroots organization, The SURGE Movement, is responsible for the soda's return to the market. The fan-based community started as a Facebook group in 2011 that was created by SURGE enthusiast Evan Carr, and expanded from there to create the namesake "movement" of SURGE fans who decided they had gone long enough without the beverage. The SURGE Movement states that they "coordinated their guerrilla marketing efforts with a goal of influencing The Coca-Cola Company to reverse their decision and bring SURGE back to the market." 

Thanks to the organization's efforts, SURGE became available for purchase on Amazon in 2014, where it immediately became the website's best-selling grocery item. The entire available inventory of the drink sold out within an hour after going public. By 2015, SURGE hit Walmart locations nationwide, and Coca-Cola expanded the drink's availability to Coke purveyors across ⅓ of the continental U.S. (per The SURGE Movement).

Burger King even released a limited run of frozen SURGE in 2015. Eric Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer for Burger King North America, said "SURGE is a classic brand with a passionate, cult-like following so it's the perfect collaboration for us," via Business Wire. The news outlet lauds the drink as "sacred by die-hard fans and '90s aficionados." Even 335 Cinemark locations carried frozen SURGE for a limited time (per The SURGE Movement).

The future of SURGE

Despite its scrappy comeback (which tracks, aesthetically), the call for it might be fading behind the skyline like a beautiful, fleeting sunset. Until 2019, the SURGE Twitter account served enduring fans with innocuous witticisms and an electric green color palette. Its most recent tweet reads, "Ska will never die. RT if you agree." (12,000 users retweeted, so -– big day for skater music fans). 

However, as accessible as the SURGE voice is, the actual product itself is decidedly tougher to find. Now, a single 16-ounce can of the drink goes on Amazon for nearly $80. According to the official SURGE website, the beverage will be leaving grocery shelves soon. Availability is limited, and many stores have already sold out. For now at least, even if cans of SURGE can't be found, it can still be located in many Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage machines in select Burger King locations. However, The SURGE Movement states its work isn't done until the drink enjoys enduring popularity by becoming part of Coca-Cola's standard lineup, among giants like Sprite and Fanta. Holding out hope for a more electric future for the beverage, SURGE fans have proven that they are, if nothing else, unceasingly resilient.