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Is Hi-C in Trouble?

September 4, 2017

Way, way back in 1948, there was a brand new drink in Florida called Hi-C. There was only one flavor, orange, and the new beverage was heavily marketed and gained nearly nationwide distribution by 1950. Not quite as good as Orange Juice, but exponentially better than the average Orange Drink, Hi-C quickly found its niche with kids. As with many regional business enterprises, little Hi-C quickly caught the eye of national corporations and was bought by Minute Maid in 1954.

 

By 1958, Hi-C fruit drinks had become a supermarket staple across the United States, available in every grocery store nationwide. As Hi-C grew under the Minute Maid umbrella, Minute Maid caught the eye of Coca-Cola and was bought in 1960.

 

Throughout the 60's and 70's, Hi-C was a favorite of American kids from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, expanding reach and adding flavors. One of the flavors they added was Citrus Cooler, a green, sweet-citrusy mix.  It is important to note that half of my clothes in the 70's had Hi-C stains on them.

 

As the 80s came, Hi-C was moving from metal cans pried open with can openers to plastic jugs and juice boxes. In 1987 Citrus Cooler became Ecto Cooler and Slimer from Ghostbusters became its pitchman. one of Hi-C's more popular flavors, Ecto Cooler was discontinued around the turn of the millennium, about the same time as a stain free version of Hi-C started to arrive on store shelves. Hi-C still had a ton of sugar, but it tasted like there was just a little bit less.

 

Today Hi-C has about a dozen juice box flavors, and about 3 are good: Orange, Lemonade, and Wild Cherry. The reason I ask about the Hi-C brand is because last year I started to see some red warning flags.

 

In 2016, Hi-C rolled out, for a limited time only, Ecto Cooler. Back from the grave, it was promoted alongside the new, rebooted Ghostbusters movie. Somehow, despite being in the National Distribution game since the early 50's. Hi-C was unable to get Ecto Cooler on the shelves. For 4 months, they claimed Ecto was on the shelves, and I saw it in person, Once. Tried Giant Eagle, Marcs, Wal-Mart, Target, & Aldi's all across the summer. Each time the refrain was the same. "We're not getting any in." 

 

How can you cross-promote a movie with no product? Ecto officially disappeared as Ghostbusters faded away. Every company has a misstep or two, but then earlier this year, McDonald's announced that they were removing Hi-C Orange from their15,000 American stores. An executive announced that the company was moving to Fanta Orange in their fountain machines.

 

Now you can still get certain flavors of Hi-C in the Coke Freestyle Machines, but most McDonald's don't have the Freestyle Machine. Even I can see some redundancies between Hi-C, Minute Maid, Powerade, and Dasani Flavored Water. And that doesn't count all the flavors of pop available. 

 

If you go to the Coca Cola website and type in brands, there is no Hi-C brand, only Minute Maid. Twenty-some different brands with no Hi-C. No Hi-C on Facebook, unless you count the musician. 1.4 million customers like Minute Maid. To me, it looks like Ghostbusters caught Coca-Cola in the middle of an internal restructuring.

 

The Coke Freestyle Machine is the future of soft drinks in America. Pepsi Spire is already behind the curve, but they're trying to catch up. Could it be that Hi-C will be collateral damage in the Cola Wars?

 

  

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