Food & Drink

’90s throwback Zima is back

Zima, a refreshing citrus beverage produced by MillerCoors and first sold from 1993-2008, is back on the market for a limited time, so you’d better act fast if you’ve been longing to cool off with this “alcopop” throwback to the ’90s.
Zima, a refreshing citrus beverage produced by MillerCoors and first sold from 1993-2008, is back on the market for a limited time, so you’d better act fast if you’ve been longing to cool off with this “alcopop” throwback to the ’90s. MillerCoors

Zima is back.

After nearly 10 years off the U.S. market, the clear, citrusy “alcopop” drink has returned to stores for a limited release.

“We know zillions of fans have missed it,” said Tristan Meline, a senior marketing manager for MillerCoors. “If you were an adult in the ’90s, you probably have a great story associated with Zima. Two decades later, ’90s inspiration is everywhere, from food to fashion, and more – it’s clear the decade has made a comeback.”

The low-alcohol (5 percent ABV) drink, often consumed with Skittles or another fruity candy dropped inside, briefly thrived as part of the “clear craze” of the 1990s, alongside drinks like Crystal Pepsi and Tab Clear. It was marketed as a new kind of alcoholic drink – “zomething different,” the commercials proclaimed.

The drink’s advertisements fed into its zany image. In one commercial, two young men enter a bar and discover it doesn’t have beer. Shocked, they are forced to order Zima, the “unique alcohol beverage” everyone in the bar seems to be drinking. In another ad, a man hiking on a hot day is swarmed by bees. He is quickly offered a Zima, which has a taste so cool and refreshing the entire swarm freezes.

At first, Zima was a hit. In the year after its 1993 release, it captured around 1 percent of the U.S. alcohol market. According to Zima’s website, the drink “owned the decade” and was “the golden child of 1994.” It quickly fizzled in popularity but remained on store shelves in the United States until 2008.

Though many forgot about Zima, a small group kept the memory of the beverage alive. “Bring Zima Back,” a Facebook page devoted to revival of the drink, has 1,218 followers. A quick YouTube search for Zima shows fans attempting to make the drink alongside videos of the strange, but classic, Zima commercials.

Japan, apparently home to some Zima fans, has sold it since 1997. Some U.S. enthusiasts – or just curious people – even had Zima mailed to them from Japan during the drink’s nearly decadelong absence.

As detailed in a Slate story published shortly after MillerCoors pulled it from the U.S. market, Zima took a long plunge to the bottom. In 1996, two years after Americans purchased 1.3 million barrels, sales dropped to slightly more than 400,000. Zima Gold, an offshoot designed to appeal to a more macho audience, failed miserably.

Zima was overshadowed by other beer alternatives, such as sugary, low-alcohol drinks like Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Smirnoff Ice – called a “famously bad malt beverage” by The Washington Post – seems to have captured the audience Zima never could.

It’s unlikely Zima’s new release will cause a nationwide frenzy. Zima.com, MillerCoors’ retro tribute to the drink, has had fewer than 10,000 page views. Its Twitter account has 71 followers. Yet there is always some enthusiasm to dig up.

“If you dream and wish hard enough, your dreams will come true #Zima #IveBeenWaitingAVeryLongTimeForThis,” says one poster on Instagram, a case of Zima in her hands.

However, if you’re one of the few people looking for a permanent Zima revival in this country, you’re out of luck. MillerCoors says the release will be for a limited time.

“You deserve to experience this thing, even it’s just for one incredible zummer,” says a post from the official Zima Twitter account.

If you love malternative beverages, act fast. Zima won’t be around for long.

Jacob Sweet: 916-321-1052, @_jacobsweet

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