7 Beverages That Tried to Unseat Coffee as the King of Breakfast

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There can be no doubt that coffee is the undisputed champion of the breakfast table. Humans consume two billion cups of coffee every day. That’s a staggering number that any beverage company would just love to get a piece of — and many have tried. 

When coffee came onto the worldwide beverage scene, it didn’t take a (relatively) long time to end tea’s nearly 3,000-year reign at the top. Wine, beer, and even water didn’t stand a chance. There’s just something so pure and simple about that dirty water that no matter what competitor comes its way, people just keep coming back.

Even people who don’t make time for actual food in the morning still find time for coffee. Why modern beverage companies thought they could muscle in on coffee’s territory is anyone’s guess but Coke, Pepsi, and even Jolt came up short. 

  1. Kickstart

Mountain Dew Kickstart is just Pepsi-Cola’s latest attempt to come at the king. Marketed as a “healthier alternative to coffee” and other caffeinated beverages, a can of Kickstart has 20 grams of sugar, is only five percent juice, and is made with chemicals that a chemistry student would have trouble pronouncing. 

A company release says Kickstart generated $100 million in sales in its first year, but that’s not enough to win hearts and minds. Home coffee consumption in the United States alone generates $14 billion every year. Pepsi might as well just stick to regular ol’ Mountain Dew (neither Mountain Dew nor Kickstart even have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee).

  1. Tang

No good has ever come from a jar of Tang. Before the U.S. space program decided to shoot for the moon in the 1960s, Tang was a languishing breakfast drink that no one really paid much attention to at all. If NASA hadn’t let slip that it was part of the space program, it might be relegated to the dustbin of history with Geritol and Braised Sweetbreads.

Tang is still sold in stores nowadays for reasons that baffle the world’s greatest minds. There’s no real orange in Tang, it contains two possible human carcinogens, and at least one member of our beloved space program will tell you that Tang sucks.

  1. Pepsi A.M.

Pepsi has been gunning for coffee for a long, long time, it seems. In 1989, it unveiled Pepsi A.M., a soda designed to be consumed at breakfast. It was just like a regular Pepsi, but had more caffeine. It should be noted that neither of these drinks have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. 

Not only did it launch this morning Pepsi in the United States, but it also later launched a coffee-flavored Pepsi drink in Eastern Europe, called Pepsi Cappuccino. Pepsi also released Pepsi Kona, but it only test-marketed in Philadelphia. Neither of these really caught on because coffee and cola is a strange mix.

  1. Coca-Cola Blak

Not to be outdone, Coca-Cola also released variants of the Coca-Cola flavor mixed with coffee.  For two years, Coke tried to give us carbonated, cola-flavored coffee (or coffee-flavored Coke, depending on your palate). It lasted a full 17 months before it was pulled off of shelves. 

Apparently Coca-Cola didn’t learn its lesson, as it launched another coffee-flavored concoction early in 2021, stunningly called “Coca-Cola with Coffee.” But that’s not even Coke’s biggest insult to coffee. 

  1. BreakMate

In a brazen assault on coffee breaks at work, Coca-Cola launched the BreakMate, a portable soda fountain offering three flavors that came with a water reservoir, syrups, and a carbon dioxide tank. Coca-Cola executives actually bragged that the BreakMate “might push the term ‘coffee break’ into the grave.”

Fat chance, Coke.

  1. GatoradeAM

In 2007, Gatorade launched a breakfast drink designed for those who want to get up and hit the gym or do some other kind of physical activity upon waking. The product was supposed to address the idea that people get dehydrated during sleep and do not have the hydration and electrolytes needed for a workout. 

All this sounds great, but any doctor will tell you that the hydration lost during sleep can be replenished with a glass of water. Nice try, Gatorade. 

  1. Mountain Dew A.M.

Would you like some coffee with your Mexican fast food? Pepsi executives didn’t think so, so when Taco Bell started offering breakfast menus, they teamed up with a breakfast beverage: Mountain Dew A.M. 

You can think of Mountain Dew A.M. as kind of a precursor to Mountain Dew Kickstart, but without all the added vitamins and whatever else they put in Kickstart. The A.M. version was just regular Dew mixed with Tropicana Orange Juice — and looked like it. 

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Blake Stilwell
Contributing Writer
Blake Stilwell is an Ohio-based writer, former combat photographer and erstwhile aid worker who works his travel plans around coffee. He has degrees in Graphic Design, Television & Film, Public Relations, International Relations, and more. His work has appeared in Business Insider, ABC News, NBC, HBO, and the White House but his real goal is his own local newspaper.

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