The Competitive Eater Who Helped Bring Back Crystal Pepsi
In 1992, after a string of test market successes, PepsiCo launched a brand of clear soda, Crystal Pepsi, nationwide. After early buzz that included a Van Hagar-soundtracked Super Bowl ad and some initial success, the cola’s popularity petered out and by 1994 PepsiCo had stopped production. More than 20 years later, Crystal Pepsi is poised for a comeback, and it's all thanks to a persistent competitive eater and a whole bunch of vomit.
Kevin Strahle, a.k.a. L.A. Beast, runs a YouTube channel where he takes on extreme eating challenges and stunts. In 2013, he bought 20-year-old Crystal Pepsi off eBay for $80 and filmed himself chugging it. In the video he expresses surprise that the stale soda tastes "amazing," but he soon becomes queasy, asking, “Is it supposed to sit in your stomach like that?” before he barfs it all out in a wide, crystal clear spray. The video currently has over 11 million views on YouTube.
“Since that day,” Strahle says over the phone, “I’ve been passionate about Crystal Pepsi.” The video helped grow his fame on the Internet, and L.A. Beast's YouTube channel currently has 1.2 million subscribers.
This April, Strahle bought another bottle of Crystal Pepsi with an even grander goal in mind. In a video titled “Pepsi Needs To Bring Back Crystal Pepsi (Warning: Extreme Rainbow Vomit)", Strahle drinks five squirt bottles of colored milk through his nose, chugs a SURGE (another once-discontinued soda), and pounds a yellow-tinted 20-year-old Crystal Pepsi. He then takes a homemade painting of a Crystal Pepsi bottle and upchucks neon puke all over it.
“I have spoken on the phone with Pepsi Cola,” Strahle says into the camera with a pro-wrestler’s intensity, “And they have told me on several different occasions that they do not have the time, the energy, or the money to spend on a campaign such as bringing back Crystal Pepsi.” Strahle's plan was to circumvent the company and launch the campaign himself. He sold the vomit-covered painting on eBay for $5,000, which he then used to help fund his efforts. He bought billboards in Los Angeles and urged his fans to swarm Pepsi’s social media accounts with the hashtag #BringBackCrystalPEPSI. The soda’s Instagram page was flooded with over 50,000 comments about the campaign and a Change.org petition has so far gathered almost 35,000 signatures.
On June 8th, Pepsi sent Strahle a letter informing him his plan worked; Crystal Pepsi is coming back:
— L.A. Beast (@KevLAbeast) June 8, 2015
“Everything has just kind of exploded,” Strahle says. “It’s awesome. I’m speechless.”
Whether PepsiCo plans to issue the soda as a limited release or goes for a full rollout with Crystal Pepsi is still unknown, but the above letter has been confirmed as real.
The man who PepsiCo cordially calls “Mr. Beast” actually used to work for the company. “I worked on the trucks delivering Pepsi in the summers in college,” he says. From 2008 to 2010 he stocked shelves for the soda manufacturer and hoped to move his way up to sales, but was told he “wasn’t persistent enough to be a salesman.”
“I have never forgotten that,” he says. “The satisfaction’s there.”
As for other discontinued products he’d like to lend his powers of resurrection to, Strahle has some ideas. “People have already started saying they want Dunkaroos back and 3D Doritos. I think another drink from my childhood I can get behind is Hi-C Ecto-Cooler. I was on eBay and like the top bid for one original little juice box sold for like $800 dollars. The potential for those guys to make money is insane.”