Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The rise and fall of Sunny Delight

It's some time at the end of the 90s. You get home from school on a Friday afternoon, dump your rucksack in the hallway, get super excited when you remember there's double Simpsons on tonight then dash to the fridge where there's this week's new bottle of Sunny Delight waiting for you.


There was even two different flavours: Florida style and California style.


This Sunny Delight, it was some sort of super drink. You couldn't believe how good it tasted and your old folks couldn't believe how good it was for you. I mean it actually got you drinking something resembling orange juice that apparently had vitamins and other stuff that was supposed to be healthy. Hmmm. Sounds too good to be true...

Sunny Delight advert from 1998:


Turned out it was too good to be true. WAAAY too good. For starters (and this is NOTHING compared to what's next), it somehow came out that this 'healthy' beverage was actually only 5% juice. Yes, 5%. Which obviously meant that the other 95% was food colouring, sugar and a load of other extremely unhealthy rubbish. In fact, one glass of Sunny Delight had the same amount of sugar as a can of Coke. No wonder it tasted so good.

This really wasn't Sunny Delight's year. You see, around the same time as these revelations were coming out, some poor, poor four year old girl in Wales was very publicly admitted to hospital following being turned a 'yellow colour' by consuming too much Sunny Delight. Seriously. Apparently the kid had been drinking 1.5 litres a day of the stuff which is about seven and a half glasses. Perhaps her parents had a tap which poured Sunny Delight instead of water? Wasn't this kind of lifestyle expensive?

Anyway, the yellow colouring she turned was all due to all the beta carotene in the drink. Beta carotene is a pro vitamin A which is found in low doses in vegetables such as carrots and produces their orange colour. Every glass of Sunny Delight contained 120 micrograms of beta carotene which is around 30% of the recommended daily intake for an adult. However, since the girl was drinking seven and a half glasses a day, she would have been consuming over twice as much of the recommended daily intake for an adult, never mind for a child. And this excessive consumption of beta carotene can lead to yellowing of the skin. So this meant, shock horror, it could happen to you too.

A spokesperson for Procter and Gamble (Sunny Delight's owners) obviously desperate for the company to save face reassured everyone that the colour change wasn't really anything to do with Sunny Delight, as it could also happen if a person ate too much carrot juice and was only temporary anyway, as a person's colour would go back to normal in a couple of weeks. Clearly they were clutching at straws here.

Looks healthy enough to me.
You'd think all this was bad enough, but then just to top it all off the new Sunny Delight advert came out, a Christmas themed one featuring two snowmen who turned a yellowy orange colour. Talk about badly timed.

Not surprisingly, by 2001 sales had halved and Sunny Delight went from the third bestselling drink in the UK to the forty second. The marketers were so desperate to top up the plummeting sales that at some point they recruited S Club 7 (shame on them!) to star in their adverts:


None of this worked and Procter and Gamble completely gave up on the product in 2003 and sold it on. It was then relaunched and remarketed as Sunny D. The product has in fact had quite a few relaunches over the years with the marketers trying out new adverts, slogans and even changing the ingredients. At one point they even changed the juice content to 70% (so it was actually healthy this time, not just fake healthy). However profits could never reach anywhere near what they once did.

Sunny Delight during its 'Sunny D' phase.

Even after all that through the years Sunny Delight is somehow still going today and it's actually called Sunny Delight again! I was really curious to find out what it tastes and looks like now. Would it be as delicious and yellow and amazing as I remembered from back in 1999? Well first off, it's pretty hard to get hold of these days. Don't try health shops they do NOT stock it, only a couple of supermarket chains seem to do it. I did manage it though:

Sunny Delight in 2012.   
It's very cheap, costing about £1.30 for a whole litre and appears to be targeted at families. It's 15% juice, which is a slight improvement on the 5% from years ago. Sadly, it doesn't smell like it once did. Do you remember that amazing sugary orangery smell? OK, credit where credit's due, it does smell like that but only a teeny, tiny fraction of what it used too. And as far as taste goes, it doesn't have that Sunny Delight magic any more. It just tastes like a run of the mill orange soft drink. So not bad I suppose, just not the Sunny Delight I remember.

They also seem to be really pushing the whole idea that the drink has no added sugar, is rich in vitamin C and doesn't have any artificial sweeteners, flavours or preservatives in. Perhaps a healthy alternative to other soft drinks for the kids at a low cost? Sounds a little too good to be true I think...

Check out my other post Whatever happened to BN biscuits?

15 comments:

  1. We still have it in France, but it's not the same, it's not as good. I miss the sugar.

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  2. im hooked on sunnyd....its very thirstquenching and its better than the tap...

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  3. Why would anyone drink this ****?

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    1. Because it's the beverage of the Gods *drinks another bottle* I'm not even kidding I have it right here

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  4. It doesn't taste the same but since it came out that it's bad for your kidneys.. I think I need to stop drinkin it. I have enough urinary problems.

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  5. I would love to punch the stupid parents who complained about the kid turning yellow. I turned yellow and I thought it was awesome and my parents didn't give a shit. The minute it was taken off I saved 15 bottles for desperate occasions. On the re-release I was excited it was back, I saw it in the shop, bought it had one big swig and spat it all over the floor. It tasted like shit, I can't believe they took out the sugar even though coke still contains a shit ton of sugar so I would really love sunny D to release a normal one, not this no added sugar bullshit

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  6. In the US we got tons of sunnyD you can by it by the gallon at discount markets for $2.99. It has 5% juice and the number one ingredient after water is suger. Followed by stuff i cant pronounce and then canola oil. Why is there canola oil in a drink? Theres still two types, california or florida but i think its now called tangy original or california style. Go with the tangy. I would have loved to try 70% juice SunnyD but never got to really drink much sunny D as a kid. And from what i can remember this stuff tastes pretty close to what it did in the 90's

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  7. In the US we got tons of sunnyD you can by it by the gallon at discount markets for $2.99. It has 5% juice and the number one ingredient after water is suger. Followed by stuff i cant pronounce and then canola oil. Why is there canola oil in a drink? Theres still two types, california or florida but i think its now called tangy original or california style. Go with the tangy. I would have loved to try 70% juice SunnyD but never got to really drink much sunny D as a kid. And from what i can remember this stuff tastes pretty close to what it did in the 90's

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  8. Why can people not just buy the real thing? After all you can buy cheap real orange juice for less

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  9. Why can people not just buy the real thing? After all you can buy cheap real orange juice for less

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  10. I don't care for Sunny D. I never have. It makes my mouth feel weird.

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  11. I feel really lucky because where I live (Portugal) it still has the same amount of sugar as before hehe

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  12. Mine this morning says 5% fruit juice. it also contains Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Neotame (three artificial sweeteners), Sodium Hexametaphosphate (thickener, bone decalcifier), Potassium Sorbate (preservative, possible irritant) and Sodium Benzoate (cellular damage consistent with cirrhosis of the liver, ageing, and Parkinson's Disease), also coloring Yellow #5 and Yellow #6.

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    1. As for the taste, I am very sensitive to artificial sweeteners, I would rather chug maple syrup a la super troopers. This tastes like complete garbage compared to 90's sunny D, which I always thought as a child that it was waaaay too sweet, but at least the flavor was on point. Now it tastes like imitation sugar, I would rather have no sweeteners. Actually orange lacroix does taste a hundred times better than this for my money, so thats what I get.

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  13. I was born in 85 and remember joining the Sunny D club in 95 or 96... The club was a marketing ploy before UK release! We received a Sunny D membership card and, according to the recorded telephone message, even had the chance to win a mini hoop and basketball! On release of the actual drink, omg it was nice and it tastes totally different now

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