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Why Do Some Food Products Fail or Disappear?

Many food products fail or vanish due to a complex blend of factors, including poor market research, lack of consumer interest, ineffective branding, and intense competition. Even great tastes can't guarantee success if the marketing misses the mark. What other hidden challenges do these products face? Join us as we uncover the secrets behind the supermarket shelves.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Almost every consumer has mourned the apparent loss of some favorite food products. Whether it's a brand of candy from childhood or a current favorite beverage, it often seems like certain foods simply vanish without explanation. Occasionally, a specific product can be located through companies specializing in hard-to-find or regional foods, but more often than not, the item has simply disappeared from store shelves. Only the manufacturers may know precisely why.

One reason some food products fail is poor overall sales. Developing new products requires a significant amount of research, experimentation and marketing. Once a new or improved product is released to the general public, its sales are carefully tracked. If these sales figures flatten out or decrease over time, the products are often removed from store shelves quickly to make room for new varieties. Sales of vanilla-flavored colas recently experienced a significant drop in sales, leading major beverage makers to phase out their existing stock.

One type of red food dye was found to be carcinogenic.
One type of red food dye was found to be carcinogenic.

Another reason why certain favorite food products disappear is a revolving door of ownership. One example is the salad dressing marketed as Spin Blend in the United States. When Spin Blend was first marketed, the recipe was owned by Hellman's, a major producer of mayonnaises, salad dressings and other condiments. Spin Blend proved to be a popular item, especially in the Midwestern states.

As sales of Spin Blend began to slow, Hellman's sold the recipe and trademark rights to a smaller regional company. In turn, the rights to market Spin Blend were sold again several years later. Some products such as Spin Blend can still be found, but there is little formal distribution outside of a prescribed area.

Sometimes, food products disappear because of corporate miscalculations. The same Gerber company known for quality baby foods once tried to market individual meals for adults called Singles. The concept sounded promising on paper, but Gerber decided to use oversized jars similar to their existing baby food containers.

The target audience for Singles were working single people who only wanted single servings of canned foods. The product failed because many single professionals did not want to be reminded of their unmarried status, and the containers looked too much like baby food jars. Quite a few food products have met similar fates because of a failure to recognize the needs of the marketplace.

Occasionally, some products presumably disappear for our own protection. A sugar-free effervescing candy called Fizzies became very popular in the 1950s and 1960s, but disappeared completely by 1970. Federal studies connected artificial sweeteners called cyclamates to certain forms of cancer, causing food manufacturers to use other sweetening agents. The Fizzies formula would not work with other artificial sweeteners on the market, so it was pulled from store shelves shortly after the ban on cyclamates went into effect.

When a food colorant called Red Dye #2 was found to be carcinogenic, many red-colored food products were pulled from store shelves. For many years, red M&M candies were pulled from production, even though the manufacturers did not use Red Dye #2. Red M&Ms were only returned to the mix after the public awareness of the red dye situation had diminished.

Sometimes, favorite food products are simply abandoned in favor of ever-changing consumer preferences. Even if a certain candy or food has a nostalgic appeal for a niche market, food companies are often driven by powerful marketing forces. If there is enough of a market remaining for certain products, smaller food companies may agree to acquire the rights to produce and distribute them.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular DelightedCooking contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Learn more...
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular DelightedCooking contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments


I wonder if there is a website that tracks products that "disappear". My personal items from the missing: Brach's Orange Jellies (other than mail order), Tum's Wintergreen, a long-lost cereal called "Jets".


HyVee stores in Omaha just stopped carrying Spin Blend. Disappointing for me; it really is the best. Other "mayos" taste like crap to me as well. They cited lack of sales. So far, Walmart still has it, but they recently discontinued my favorite Belgian chocolate. Grr.


Cub Foods carries it in Minnesota.


Currently, many products are disappearing from shelves due to computer sales analysis. Stores like WalMart look at figures from the computer records and drop products with lower sales to use the shelf space for higher turnover, higher profit items.

Consumers lose choices every day. Places like Walmart cater to lower income people who buy more on price. If you are one who doesn't mind paying a little more for the better product, good luck.

Chances are, your choice is going one day. Sooner or later, you will be limited to the purchasing habits of the lowest common denominator.


Just found Spin Blend for sale online. It's through a company called Silver Palate/world pantry.


Thankfully, Spin Blend is again available at my local grocery store, "Dillon's", in Springfield, Missouri. I couldn't find it at any other stores here and I'd given up, but recently, as I browsed the shelves at Dillon's, there it was it was, back on the bottom shelf, and hardly noticeable, as usual. It's being made by a new manufacturer now. Hurray!

Now I can also again make my famous tuna salad. You're right, none of the other mayonnaise, or salad dressings compare to Spin Blend. It's the best! --slow mtn6


I grew up with Spin Blend. I don't like mayo, and don't like Miracle Whip, as they both taste like crap compared to SB. I make my chunky style tuna salad using Spin Blend, and anyone who tries it really likes it. I think it's the taste of SB that makes it different and taste better than the standard tuna salad. If they stop making it, I'll be screwed.


I also love Spin Blend, and as of yesterday, the only store in my area that carried it, Dillon's, has permanently dropped it from their inventory. It's not surprising, as Dillon's did very little to promote it anyway, placing it on the bottom shelf and obscuring it with other brands, as if they really didn't want to sell it.

So, as long as we're talking about favorite products inexplicably vanishing from store shelves such as Spin Blend, I'd like to know what's going on now with "Pepsi One." I love Pepsi One with its Splenda sweetener, yet it's very difficult to find in the stores here in SW Missouri. Out of six large grocery store chains, none of them stock more than six twelve pack cases at a time. You practically have to be there when the Pepsi man is restocking, or you'll be lucky to get any at all.

Obviously, other people like Pepsi One too, or it wouldn't vanish so quickly from the shelves, yet the stores, and Pepsi, load up the shelves with all of Pepsi's other products, which are stacked to the ceiling on shelves and piled in displays scattered all around the store aisles.

I personally think that most of Pepsi's new products, which they're always pushing, taste terrible, and I especially don't care for the ones containing Aspartame and Nutra-Sweet.

So, here's my question. Is Pepsi One with Splenda going to stay around, or is it too going to soon go the way of the dinosaurs and Spin Blend?


Spin Blend is available in the Detroit Metro area. Carried by Hiller's Markets.(Berkely MI)


Hands down, nothing can beat the taste of Spin Blend. There was one store I could find it at and now there are none.

Will try Smart Balance and hope for the best. If I can find that, won't bother making potato salad, mac salad, etc. Without Spin Blend, it's not worth it.


Spin Blend is now owned by Smart Balance and I just bought a jar here in Cleveland (9-09). The only diff is the addition of the Smart Balance logo to the label. Otherwise, the jar looks the same and the taste is the same - excellent! Maybe Smart Balance will begin to distribute it more widely.


Crystal Pepsi, a clear soda produced for a short time by PepsiCo, is often mentioned as a product removed from the shelves before its time. Sometimes a company will develop and release a product that becomes an instant hit with certain customers, but has little appeal across all age groups. Crystal Pepsi was a radical departure from Pepsi's usual dark colas, and it was introduced at a time when other clear colas were extremely popular. The problem is that Pepsi and other large soda companies entered that clear cola market too late to compete with smaller bottling companies with more recognizable products. Some consumers fell in love with Crystal Pepsi's unique flavorings, while others found it to be virtually flavorless. It's often easier for a larger company to pull a product completely off the shelves rather than devote an entire production line to a product with limited appeal.


Why did Crystal Pepsi fail?

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    • One type of red food dye was found to be carcinogenic.
      By: Gregory Johnston
      One type of red food dye was found to be carcinogenic.