Nothing lasts forever. Especially in the food and beverage industry.
Here's a look at five brands that we think may be reaching their expiration date. Each of them has two things in common. First, we think there's a good possibility they won't exist much longer. Second, it's sort of surprising that these particular brands would wind up on a list like this.
1. MICHELOB LIGHT
The surprise here is that Michelob Light still exists at all. We see Michelob Ultra in lots of places, but Michelob Light fell off our radar screen quite some time ago. In fact we had no idea the stuff was still being brewed until we saw that 24/7 Wall Street had given it the top slot in its "Nine Beers that Americans No Longer Drink" article.
And it turns out that Michelob Light (and Michelob in general) made a similar list in 2012. The brand is in tough shape, having lost more in sales (a 70% drop over five years) than any other beer.
If you like the stuff, you better buy some now and stick it in storage.
Another brand in the we-thought-it-was-gone-already category is Tab, one of the pioneers of the diet-soda business. Back in the 1960s, Tab was extraordinarily popular. Its pink can and groovy graphics were part of the whole Twiggy-miniskirt-Jet-Age scene.
But in 1982, parent company Coca-Cola introduced Diet Coke. And Tab sales plummeted. Key to that drop was that Tab was sweetened with saccharine. And saccharine had developed a reputation as dangerous and sort of gross.
Much to our surprise, Tab is still available in some parts of the United States (and in Africa, Spain and Norway.) But given that sales of diet sodas are falling fast, we can't imagine Coca-Cola is interested in keeping this brand afloat any longer.
3. LEAN CUISINE
Paul Bulcke, chief executive officer of Nestle, has made it quite clear that he intends to dump brands that are underperforming. "We want to be in business," he said, "not in agony."
Few brands are likely as agonizing to Bulcke as Lean Cuisine. He's already unloaded Jenny Craig. And PowerBar is the third-largest energy bar brand on earth. Surely someone will want to buy that. But Lean Cuisine, which arguably has the best-sounding name in the weight-loss world, and which was once ubiquitous in the frozen-food aisle, seems like a candidate for closure.
Nestle has tried teaming with ConAgra to boost sales of frozen meals. But that initiative hasn't yielded a rise in sales.
Maybe someone will buy the brand and keep the name. But our guess is that it's more likely someone will buy it and roll it into a different brand, or that Bulcke will stop throwing good money after bad and just shutter Lean Cuisine.
It's hard to imagine a world without the Chiquita brand. But we may be living in that world soon. Here's why: Chiquita Brands International is in the middle of the nastiest legal battle on the planet. The company is accused of funding terrorist groups in Latin America.
Chiquita has, in fact, admitted to making $1.7 million in payments to the right-wing militia called the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (known as the AUC, in Spanish). And the AUC has been linked to the deaths of thousands of civilians. Family members of those killed have filed lawsuits against Chiquita.
Recently, Chiquita lost its legal battle to prevent plaintiffs from gaining access to documents about how the company dealt with the militias. And those documents apparently also link Chiquita to left-wing militias.
The liability here is enormous. And although the most likely scenario is that the company survives, it wouldn't surprise us at all to find that the Chiquita brand name winds up tainted beyond repair. If that happens, look for the Chiquita name to disappear in a major rebranding effort.
We know. It would be awful. And it's crazy to even think about. How could what is arguably the biggest taste sensation in decades disappear? Sales are fantastic. Sriracha fans may be the most devoted of all consumers. We're fans ourselves, and we're telling you: this stuff is perfect!
But perfection won't buy you protection from angry neighbors, and folks near the Huy Fong Foods facility in California have convinced regulators to put a temporary halt to shipments. That's brought a panic to those of us who love the hot sauce.
Now our biggest fear is that the enigmatic man behind Sriracha, David Tran, will simply close down rather than let regulators or neighbors tell him how to run his business.
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