Necessity might be the mother of invention, but in the 21st century, social media engagement trounces necessity every time. It’s not enough for a company to innovate goods and services that people need—no, you have to get people talking and generate some serious buzz if you’re going to survive in this landscape. That’s true in the world of fast food and consumer packaged goods (CPGs), too, hence the plethora of weird, wild, completely unasked-for products that hit the market with concerning regularity. Halfway through 2022, we’re taking a look at the five food and beverage products that seriously missed the mark this year, and why each one was such a disappointment.
Tropicana Crunch Cereal
Even as a marketing gimmick, this one offended our sensibilities. Tropicana Crunch, according to its press release, is “the first-ever breakfast cereal created to pair with Tropicana Pure Premium so you can sip your sunshine and eat it, too.” Yes, it’s a cereal intended to be doused in orange juice rather than milk.
To its credit, Tropicana seems well aware of the fact that this limited-time product was destined to horrify more than a few consumers. “Whether you loved it or loathed it, at least you can say you tried it,” read the press release. And loathe it we did. The cereal itself wasn’t terrible—it’s sort of like Honey Bunches of Oats—but paired with the orange juice, each spoonful highlighted every flavor you’d rather avoid, from bitter citrus pith to excess sugar sweetness. Our brains didn’t know how to process this bizarre combination. Read our full review here.
Papa Johns Epic Pepperoni-Stuffed Crust Pizza
Stuffed crust pizza is a tough thing to get right, structurally speaking. All that extra cheese lends a heavy greasiness that you have to balance out with a sturdy, not-too-salty base—and that requires a level of precision that Papa Johns has never appeared to hold itself to. The pizza chain took things one step further with pepperoni slices and cheese baked into the crust, which sounds good in theory—but the result is an extraordinarily heavy slice that’s mostly just a chore to work through. Pizza shouldn’t be this much of a slog. Read our full review here.
Panera Chef’s Chicken Sandwiches
If anything, these sandwiches—both the Signature Take and Spicy Take chicken sandwich—are a reminder of everything Panera is good at. And it isn’t good at this. The company has been trying to stretch itself beyond soup, salad, and bread bowls for years now, and some of the menu additions have fallen flat, chicken sandwiches very much included. The Signature Take is disappointingly bland, while the Spicy Take doesn’t deliver on its promise of heat. Neither one comes close to justifying its price tag, which depending on location is north of $12. We know Panera wants to extend beyond its greatest hits, but this isn’t the way to do it. Read our full review here.
Tinier bubbles, less fizz. That’s what you want out of a soda, right? For a beverage company that’s been in business for over a century, Pepsi made one hell of a miscalculation in determining what its customers desire most. Either that, or the brand wanted to expand its base by catering to customers who prefer the smooth taste of... flat syrup.
Nitro Pepsi, whose bubbles come from nitrogen rather than CO2, certainly looks tantalizing as it pours beautifully from the can; in a pint glass, you could mistake it for a frosty Guinness. But since a sharp, assertive fizziness is so much of what we expect from a can of soda, this velvety version did nothing but leave us wanting. Read our full review here.
Wendy’s Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich
This thing sounded so ridiculously good on paper. Pepperjack cheese. Bacon. Dill pickle chips. Habanero hot honey sauce. Brioche bun. How could this rich and delectable combination of sweet and spicy ingredients fail us? By committing an unfortunately common fast food offense: It’s a salt bomb.
Salty chicken, salty cheese, salty bacon, salty chips. Even in the sodium-rich landscape of chain restaurants, this sandwich was a standout. The honey doesn’t do enough to cut through all that salt, so you’re left with a hefty handful of squandered potential. While it might not be that flashy, the regular Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich will treat you and your palate better than this. Read our full review here.