New Coke Is Back Thanks to Stranger Things. But Everyone Hated It in 1985.


Thanks to a marketing campaign with the Netflix series Stranger Things,the 1985 drink New Coke is coming back this week. But when New Coke was first released in 1985, it "spawned consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen," according to Coca-Cola's own site.

New Coke marked the first time the soft drink company had changed its formula in 99 years. After seeing lagging sales, Coca-Cola decided to tinker with the ingredients to create a style of Coke with a smoother, sweeter taste more reminiscent of Diet Coke, but sweetened with corn syrup. Researchers were certain it would be a hit because it beat out classic Coke in taste tests among 200,000 customers.

"This has got to be the boldest consumer products move of any kind of any stripe since Eve started to hand out apples," said Jesse Meyers, publisher of the trade magazine Beverage Digest, in 1985.

But in the weeks following the release, the company received more than 40,000 irate telephone calls and letters. People began hording boxes of the classic cans for fear they'd be discontinued. Though New Coke had won out in taste tests, Coca-Cola didn't take into account people's loyalty to the familiar taste they'd been drinking for decades.

"The clear majority of those calls are people expressing concern," Brian Dyson, president of Coca-Cola USA, told United Press International at the time. "Some say it's terrific but the majority are expressing concern."

Hedging its bets, the company continued to quietly produce its classic formula. And while New Coke outsold the classic in Canada, classic remained more popular in the U.S., according to a 1985 Los Angeles Times story.


In the end, New Coke only lasted for 79 days.

Now, it returns on Thursday as a limited release. The company has quietly been working on recreating the drink for the last six months, the Associated Press reports, and the retro cans will make an appearance in Season Three of Stranger Things, which is set in 1985 and premieres on July 4. Select cities will also get "upside-down" vending machines this summer to dispense free cans of New Coke.

“The summer of 1985 did in fact change everything for us with the introduction of New Coke, which was also arguably one of the biggest pop culture moments of that year,” Oana Vlad of Coca-Cola North America, told the AP.

The real question is: Will Eleven and the crew actually like it?

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Kate Storey
Kate Storey is a Writer-at-Large for Esquire covering culture, politics, and style. She spent two years as Hearst Digital Media's News Director, managing an international shared news desk. Her book, White House By the Sea, about the Kennedys in Hyannis Port, is out summer 2023.
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