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Monday, June 06, 2011

Retro Product Fail #7: Orbitz Soft Drink

Usually Go Retro only focuses on people, places and things from the 1940s through the 1980s, but I think the drink that was known as Orbitz, which was introduced in 1997, deserves a special mention. That's because its status has now been elevated to vintage novelty item, with a bottle currently going for $39 on eBay (which may have gone up by the time you read this post.)

The Orbitz soft drink could be the ultimate poster boy for the "What the HELL were they thinking?" consumer product category. If you've ever wondered how to make a soft drink go from yummy to yucky, Orbitz's creators had the answer: add disgusting little gelatinous balls to it. Introduced by the Clearly Canadian Beverage Company, Orbitz promised to deliver a "texturally enhanced alternative beverage" while looking like an edible lava lamp.

Yes, with Orbitz you could have your sip your drink and chew it, too. Or you could spit the balls at your unsuspecting friends. And the suspended balls weren't the only part about Orbitz that was disgusting; reviewers liken the taste of the liquid itself to Pine Sol or cough syrup. The flavors sound positively gut-wretching, with names such as Pineapple Banana Cherry Coconut (too many flavors - make up your mind!) and Charlie Brown Chocolate. Here's some excerpts from reviews still floating around online on the drink:

"We all tried the different flavors, and one was more disgusting than the next.  How could something like this possibly have made it to market?  My only explanation is that this was the height of the dot com bubble, a romaticized time when every unconventional and asinine idea could take flight." - Retro Thing

"When I finally had the balls (er, sorry) to try it, it tasted like the sort of thing thirteen year old boys dare each other to drink in a school cafeteria. And those balls only made it worse. I mean, here's this disgusting drink. One can almost handle that, but oh those balls. I caught one with my teeth and bit into it. It was like biting into radioactive mucous Tang. I don't want to think about it anymore." - Joe Lavin, Orbitz: The Drink With Balls

"It tastes like water that came out of a vase used for flowers. . . . the balls make it even worse." - James Craven, Superfox

What was even more embarrassing for Clearly Canadian was the marketing concept that the beverage came from the Planet Orbitz...it seems only aliens could dream up something this bad!

Not surprisingly, Orbitz only lasted a year or two on store shelves before being discontinued, another fatality of the dot-com era. The Orbitz website has now been taken over by the travel agency with the same name. Strangely enough, there are some folks out there who liked the drink enough to start petitions to bring it back. I'll stick to Canada Dry, thanks very much!

Does anyone else remember this disgusting drink, or did you try it?


  1. Well guess what? I loved it. I love everything orange - the colour, the smell, the flavour, etc. And I loved their orange flavour..... now you'll never listen to my opinion again!!!!

  2. I still have a bottle in my fridge!

  3. I don't remember this, and I'm glad I don't! Bleccch!!

  4. Charlie Brown Chocolate?? This was a soda??

  5. ORBITZ are AWEOSME! I have them in my refrigerator!

    I used to do a segment on my public acces tv show "Theunderbird Theatre" called "Product Showcase" about such things...great!

  6. Mike and I loved Orbitz! The amazing part is how they got the gelatinous balls to stay suspended in the drink. They weren't like boba tea with the tapioca all congregated at the bottom of the drink, they hung eerily throughout the drink, no matter how much you shook it.

    It was a marvel of modern food design and didn't get enough credit in its day.

  7. I remember trying it and liking it. I also like Boba though, although I can't drink a whole serving. Too rich.

    This was such a flashback. I remember seeing Orbitz for the 1st time... I was all, "What the hell?" I really had no idea they were gone. I had not thought about them in some time.

  8. WOW - who knew there were so many Orbitz fans???

  9. Nope - never heard of this product but it definitely doesn't sound appealing to me. Now that you mentioned Canada Dry ginger ale I've got a craving for this. I haven't had it in a very long time.

  10. I loved it. :) WEll... I loved ONE flavor of it. The fun aspect was grossing out others by drinking it. I remember giving one to my online friend at the time when she visited, and watching her gross out and making her promise to drink it really cold. I wonder if she did... that was the trick for me. It had to be really cold, then it was good. But if it was room temp... ew. Also, the balls sunk at higher altitudes. You had to shake them to get the balls to rise... that doesn't sound right.

  11. Holy Cow! I have a bottle of that somewhere that I bought in the 90's as a joke lava lamp for my room! I may have to put that sucker on Ebay.

  12. I was 15 or so when I had my frist taste of this exciting drink! I LOVED everything about it!! And the little balls were not an issue They were fun and tasted fine to me I have been wanting these forever and I now know what happend, darn old people didnt like them they had no fun in there life to understand the joy those drinks brought to me when my friend would go to Canada and bring me only one of those drinks back to me. I hope I do see them make a come back I think that they were "Out of this World" and I would drink they today!! :)

  13. I LOVED EVERYTHING about these drinks!!! The little balls that I could barely feel as they slip right it my mouth, They were "Out of this World" and I loved them!! I want them back, I was 15 were I had my one and only and have been dreaming of finding them again.... but they are gone :( I really did think they were cool and I liked the way they looked too!!

  14. This post made me laugh out loud. I totally remember carrying these for a very brief period of time in my dad's store. We ended up putting one on a shelf and making sure no one ever touched it to see if the little balls would settle to the bottom. Even after five years they never did.

  15. My brother and I LOVED this stuff.


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