If somebody were to ask me to name one defining trait of growing up in the Midwest in the 1980s and 1990s, I would immediately answer, “we ate crap.” If we saw a new processed snack at the grocery store, we bought it. My sisters and I watched a lot of cartoons, and commercials worked so well on me. Later on in college I claimed in a media studies class that I wasn’t susceptible to commercials and maybe that was true at 19, but at 9 I was so susceptible to commercials. I was practically begging TV to sell me something, or more accurately convince me to goad my mom into buying something.
Here were are, the Pepsi Generation
The products ran the gamut from snack cakes to push up pops to cereal, and of course soft drinks and juices. We were not a family that shied away from pop. From the day my mom started packing my lunch in middle school until the day I graduated high school, every day’s lunch bag contained a Pepsi. We always had pop in the house. Now I drink maybe one pop a month and all of the kids have long left the house, but I guarantee when I visit my parents I’ll be able to find ginger ale or Coke in the garage. It’s mostly my younger sister’s influence at this point, as she still has a sweet tooth for it so there’s at least some of it around. She also introduced Coca-Cola into what was a proud Pepsi household for more than 20 years, a nigh unforgivable offense.
The 1980s and 1990s were also a wonderful time for drink experimentation. Crystal Pepsi, Josta, Fruitopia, and Surge all had their moments of varying length, but the two I want to talk about now played an alternating role in my middle school memories: Clearly Canadian and Mistic.
I’ve always been more than a little bit of a mama’s boy. At 38, my sisters are still convinced I’m mom’s favorite, and honestly they are probably correct. Mom and I did things like running errands together. And when I got a little older and started making noises about independence, mom turned to bribery to get me to go places. Whenever my mother went to the grocery store, if I went along with her to keep her company, I would receive a bag of either Combos or Gardettos (usually Gardettos) and either a Mistic or a Clearly Canadian. Even though I preferred Clearly Canadian I liked to switch it up, and Mistic was no slouch either. You could call me Van Morrison, because I was into the Mistic.
Readers under 25 may have no memory of Clearly Canadian at all. It was introduced in 1987 and hit its peak in the 1990s before fading into obscurity in the early 2000s, eventually disappearing entirely in 2009. Thanks to an online campaign, pre-sales began for a relaunch around 2013, and once again the product is available on a limited basis. I picked up a bottle from World Market a few months ago and it is still delicious.
If you’re one of those aforementioned 25 year olds, Clearly Canadian was fruit flavored sparkling water. It was full of corn syrup, but as long as you did no research and put no thought into it, it was easy to fool yourself into believing that it was a healthy alternative to pop. It followed the time-tested formula of clear + fruit = good for you. Wild cherry was my go to, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a mountain blackberry.
Mistic technically never went anywhere. It just faded from public consciousness and from everywhere else but the convenience store in the lobby of my work. I’ve worked in this building for six years and have yet to see anybody purchase a Mistic. Until conducting some research before starting this piece (aka Googling for two minutes) I had completely forgotten that the Mistic bottle design was nearly identical to Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers. Boku may have billed itself and the adult juicebox, but Mistic was the child’s wine cooler. The inspired bottle design of the 1990s makes the current design atrocity of the Mistic bottle even more of a tragedy. Mistic looks like bootleg juice. It looks like it should only be sold in Chinatown next to real genuine Coach bags, we swear. The name of the juice itself is a knockoff of Mystic. Mistic’s problem is it never let us miss it. It just hung around in the wings the whole time, defeating our nostalgic impulses. It never got its Crystal Pepsi moment, its online campaign, its Surge return. But it once had its place in my mom grocery store trips rotation, at least.
Did your mom bribe you to go to the grocery store with her? What was your snack of choice in exchange? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.