The Untold Truth Of Zima

If you're of a certain age, you probably remember the bizarre, clear malt beverage known as Zima. If you're slightly below that age, you probably remember the jokes that followed its release. According to Slate, Zima was the original attempt by beer company Coors to reach a new audience of drinkers who disliked beer — think Smirnoff Ice for a present-day example. 

Zima was produced by filtering the lowest grade beer the company made through charcoal to strip its flavor and color (in the '90s it was briefly popular to make products clear, which was also the fad that gave us Crystal Pepsi,) and adding citrus flavoring. The company marketed this drink towards men who felt that wine coolers weren't macho enough, and instructed sellers to never place Zima alongside them. Despite this marketing campaign, the drink ended up being most popular with women, which further alienated Zima's target audience.

Zima's ultimate downfall

While sales were decent in Zima's first year, with an Eater report claiming that 70 percent of regular drinkers in America at least tried the beverage, part one of Zima's downfall was its flavor. Slate describes the drink as tasting like aluminum foil soaked in Fresca, and Business Insider quotes critics of the drink, saying its flavor was reminiscent of "scotch tape with lime" or "lemonade filtered through aluminum foil."

According to Slate, in 1995 Coors decided to try again to appeal to male consumers with Zima Gold, a caramel-colored drink with a higher alcohol content than traditional Zima. Zima Gold never took off, and the company pulled it after only three months. In 2004, Coors again tried to reinvent the brand with another higher-alcohol line named Zima XXX, and one last time in 2007, by pivoting toward the low-calorie, low-alcohol audience of young women.

You can still buy Zima in Japan

Part two of Zima's downfall would be the reformatting of tax laws governing alcohol sales in California. Previously, Zima and other malt beverages had been taxed in the same way as beer. According to The OC Register, Californians believed a higher price would dissuade alcohol abuse in minors, and began taxing flavored malt beverages at the same rate as distilled spirits. Slate claims this represented a $3.10 tax hike per gallon for Zima's producer, which was now known as MillerCoors following a 2008 merger, as reported by Microeconomics Insights. The company apparently felt this was too great a cost to bear, and Zima was discontinued in October of 2008 everywhere other than Japan, according to The Daily Meal

In 2017, Business Insider reported that, hoping to capitalize on '90s nostalgia, Zima was coming back for a limited summer release. Tristian Meline, then Senior Marketing Manager of Innovation for now named company CoorsMillerPlus, claimed "Whether you remember it or not, this summer is your only chance to taste the 'it' drink of the '90s."