Archives

These were the newest drinks on the market in the '70s, '80s, and '90s

When these eight drinks hit the market, they offered newer flavours and novel sipping experiences for consumers.

More alcohol or less, novel flavours, supporting charities drew consumers to beer, cola, and coolers

According to a recent report from the CBC's Andrew Coppolino, local craft breweries in Kitchener-Waterloo have "embraced" seltzers in the past "couple of years."

There's even a mascot for one brand of the new trendy drink, nicknamed Seltzy. It got noticed during the Winnipeg Jets' home games in this year's NHL playoffs, demonstrating that big brewers like Budweiser have even gotten into the hard seltzer market.

Every type of drink was new once, and a survey of the CBC archives yields eight examples of new beverage types, alcoholic or not, that popped up on the consumer landscape in Canada in the '70s, '80s and '90s.

From light beer to extra-strong beer, conventional cola to wine coolers, these are some of the drinks that were new once. Some of them are still around, while others have disappeared off store shelves and remain only as memories.

Light beer

Not all light beer is created equally

The National

43 years ago
1:27
How much alcohol by volume should a light beer contain? The breweries and the government disagree. 1:27

In 1978, Canada's big brewers launched a fight for the light beer market, and things got heavy. For one thing, they didn't see eye-to-eye with the Canadian government about what, exactly, made a beer "light."

It wasn't about the calories: all the brands tested in a report by CBC reporter Paul Workman added up to less than 100 calories a bottle. But they ranged from 2.5 per cent alcohol by volume to 4.5 per cent, under brands like Carling's Trilight, Labatt Special Light and Molson Light. 

New Coke

New Coke formula 'better than we've ever had'

Archives

36 years ago
3:27
The president of Coca-Cola Canada explains the company's logic in changing the soft drink's 99-year-old recipe. 3:27

In 1985, the Coca-Cola company decided to shake things up — and it exploded in the soft drink maker's face. The company had made a splashy launch of a new formula for the 99-year-old drink, and it quickly became known as New Coke.

"What's Coke doing? What is this all about?" Valerie Pringle, host of CBC's Midday, demanded of the president of the company's Canadian subsidiary in April that year.

"We think, Valerie, the best is better," said Coca-Cola's Neville Kirchmann. "We have a formula that we think is as good as, and better than we've ever had."

Cherry cola

The cherry cola race of 1985

Archives

36 years ago
2:53
Pepsi catches wind of Coke's plan and rushes to get a cherry cola to market first. 2:53

Later in 1985, cola drinkers had another choice: cherry cola. And both big soft drink makers were racing to be first to market with it.

At the time, the cola makers were embroiled in a "battle for the hearts and minds and soft drink money of the 12- to 17-year-old crowd." And as s CBC's Venture learned, Pepsi was winning when it came to cherry cola.

Jolt! cola

Jolt: a cola with a difference

Digital Archives

35 years ago
3:38
A cola made by a Rochester, N.Y. company boasts all the sugar and twice the caffeine of the conventional variety. 3:38

The cola battle continued in 1986, with a new combatant: Jolt! cola. Boasting "all the sugar and twice the caffeine" of regular cola, it was the creation of an American company that had been picked up for distribution in Canada.

Again on the cola beat, Venture profiled Jolt! before its Canadian launch. Jolt!'s Canadian marketers identified three segments of the soft drink market that might buy the drink.

"There's the yuppie area that will buy it because it's something new and trendy," he said. "Then there's the hard-core flavour drinkers ... and the children. They think it's a little naughty and a little risqué, so they're going to get interested in it too." 

Wine coolers

Wine coolers: the hottest new drink of 1986

Archives

35 years ago
1:48
Wine makers find a saviour in the newest drink on liquor store shelves. 1:48

"It's just like drinking lemonade," said a woman drinking with friends on a patio on a weekday afternoon in July 1986. Wine coolers — usually wine mixed with soda and juice — were the newest category of alcoholic beverage available from the liquor store.

As the CBC's Marina Mirabella reported, the fizzy quenchers had been introduced two years earlier and were boosting sales for winemakers whose numbers were otherwise flat. And they weren't just a boon to the wine business: the distillers were also making their own. Consumers could now buy rye coolers, vodka coolers, and rum coolers.

No-alcohol beer

The beer that wasn't

Digital Archives

30 years ago
1:54
Labatt says its low-alcohol beer isn't for kids, but for adults who like the taste and smell but don't want a product with alcohol. 1:54

By 1991, there was a new type of beer available on store shelves — grocery store shelves. And that was a problem for Gary Smith, a local politician in Cape Breton.

As the CBC's Cynthia Kent reported, the new type of beer was so low in alcohol, at 0.5 per cent, that it could be purchased by anyone alongside soft drinks. Smith described a case where a 10-year-old buy and his 14-year-old sister had been discovered drinking the near beer by their mother.

But Labatt, the beverage's maker, said it wasn't trying to ensnare children with its new creation, despite packaging that Smith said could be "indentified with the regular beer." 

"This product will be positioned toward adult beer drinkers," said Labatt spokesperson Rod Macleod. "We not only had to make a product taste and smell like beer. Wew wanted to make the product look as if it was in tradtional beer packaging." 

Pride beer

A beer branded with Pride

Digital Archives

29 years ago
2:03
A new beer meant to raise money for projects in the gay community is adopted quickly by one Toronto bar, but another drops it due to low sales. 2:03

In 1992, a microbrewery called Brick was selling a brand, available in Ontario beer stores and at 15 to 20 local Toronto bars, that it called Pride. The label featured an upside-down pink triangle.

"The whole idea was just to be a way to raise money for charities," said Bob Amyotte, who told reporter Lisa Papas about the inspiration for the beer. 'Because I'm gay, that was the first market that I hit."

Papas explained that a portion of the profits from Pride beer were "poured into gay theatre, art, film and literature." And at Amyotte's bar, identified as Targets in the CBC catalog, Pride was tied as "the number-one bestseller."    

Extra-strong beer

Strong beer popular on campus

Digital Archives

28 years ago
2:00
At 7.1 per cent, critics charge that Maximum Ice is just too high in alcohol. 2:00

Most beers in Canada in 1993 had a standard alcohol volume of five per cent. But at 7.1 per cent, Maximum Ice was different — and it was getting noticed. 

"I've heard about it with their advertising," said a young man at a student pub. "I've had two. It tastes pretty good."

Labatt was currently running a "massive ad campaign" for Maximum Ice, said a CBC reporter who visited the pub. But the beer wasn't sitting well with John Bates, a spokesman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. 

"The only reason they put out a high-alcohol beer out in mass market is so that a certain segment ... can get drunk quicker," he said.

Labatt's main competitor was said to be "disappointed" with the strong beer.

"It said Labatt's move could escalate the beer war," summed up the reporter. "If Maximum Ice is successful, Molson says it could be forced to compete with a stronger beer of its own."

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