9 Early Aughts Energy Drinks That Flamed Out Before You Could Count to Four Loko
At this point, the energy drink industry is an absolute titan, fueled by whatever the hell guarana is. But oversaturated as it is, there are always a few new entries that can’t find market share. In fact, on Energy Everest, there’s many frozen corpses littered along the path to the top, including ones from massively successful drink companies. Whether it was too early, too confusing or just too weird, there were even attempts by Coca-Cola and friends that never caught on.
To that end, here are nine energy drinks that never managed to make their way into enough fridges…
Jolt Cola launched long before the energy drink boom, all the way back in 1985. Maybe the reason they were able to win that race was its remarkably simple recipe for energy: What if soda just had twice as much caffeine? That, plus the use of real sugar, did manage to garner a dedicated following before they went bankrupt in 2009.
This might have been too clever for its own good. Honestly, the realization that 7 Up upside-down spelled dnL was a top-tier shower thought, but maybe one that shouldn’t have been turned into a full-on offering. It wasn’t what we would fully consider an “energy” drink, but was instead a caffeinated version of 7 Up. I assume it was passed by in stores as people assumed it was a weird manufacturing error. Either way, it didn't last a year.
Coca-Cola, whenever it’s tried to branch out, has faced a massive double-edged sword. On one hand, they have maybe the strongest brand familiarity of any product in the world, which they don't want to waste. On the other, people want cans that say Coke on them to be Coke. When Coca-Cola Energy launched in 2020, it certainly didn’t help that it was about to be real hard to run into it on store shelves when everyone was in quarantine. Personally, I wouldn’t have bet on its success regardless. It lasted just over a year before being discontinued in 2021.
Mentions of Bawls energy drink pretty much inspire one of two binary reactions: complete lack of knowledge, or misty-eyed nostalgia. The unofficial fuel of early PC gaming, and a central, blue silhouette at any well-stocked LAN party, it was a beloved drink by indoor kids the world over. It was also an early advertiser of energy additive extraordinaire: the aforementioned guarana. It’s actually still available today, but takes significant effort to find.
Coca-Cola Blak, for all I know, was actually pretty good. The problem was that neither I, nor most of the public, ever had any interest in trying it. It was the mass-manafactured equivalent of some sort of frankenrecipe that your weirdest friend swears tastes good: coffee and coca-cola. It also boasted twice the caffeine of regular Coca-Cola. The biggest problem: It sounded gross. And so, it was quickly discontinued in the U.S.
Mountain Dew MDX
Of all the drinks on this list, Mountain Dew MDX might be the one that seems like it had the best chance in retrospect. It launched, as you can clearly tell by the logo, in 2005, and it was pretty much just Mountain Dew with a little more caffeine and energy additives like taurine and guarana. It also reportedly tasted pretty much like regular Mountain Dew. Unfortunately, it never caught on, maybe because people didn’t really understand what they were looking at, since they weren’t as familiar with the idea of energy drinks in general.
SoBe Adrenaline Rush
This one never really had a chance to succeed or fail based on its own merits, since it was tied to a dying brand. SoBe and their iconic lizards ran out of juice after having what seemed like their own section in convenience stores in the aughts. With the discontinuation of SoBe drinks altogether, Adrenaline Rush was buried in an adjoining grave.
I haven’t tried all the drinks on this list, but Vault? Vault was my shit, and I’m genuinely sad it’s gone. It was an ultra-caffeinated offering from Coca-Cola attempting to compete with their rival PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew, something of a white whale for Coke. Unfortunately, Vault went out with a whisper in 2011, when Coca-Cola seemingly lost interest and thought that Mello Yello was the next big thing. Um, yeah.
Radium and Water
The big problem here is that we now know that this energy drink of the early 1900s didn’t give you energy, but did give you cancer. It experienced a massive amount of negative press after its biggest fan’s jaw fell off, his breath became radioactive, and his coffin had to be made of lead.