The Biggest Food Product Failures Ever

A lot of effort goes into market research, design and taste-testing to ensure that most products, from bargain foods to big-name brands, are as appealing to as many people as possible.

Whilst the most notable product failures tend to be in the soft drink world, in a world which believes that there isn’t a single best product but instead a best group of products, you see some interesting failures that range from the sublimely ridiculous to the ridiculously sublime.

Here are the stories behind the biggest food product fails ever.


WOW Potato Crisps

Everyone has a particular bag of crisps they love, and given that you can get sparkling wine flavoured crisps there is no limit that will not be crossed for the sake of novelty.

However, people wanted that delicious taste but without the high-fat content that many crisps have, and in an age before baked crisps and smarter manufacturing techniques, Frito-Lay (the owners of Walkers crisps) tried a rather less successful alternative.

Lay’s WOW range of crisps was fat-free, made using a fat substitute called Olestra that could eliminate the presence of fat in the foods and do for crisps what sugar-substitutes had done for soft drinks.

It was very popular as well when launched in 1998, making $400m in its first year. However, it quickly emerged that Olestra had some very nasty gastric side effects, such as cramping and other digestive issues, even having to add vitamins to offset what was lost.

This led to a quick rebrand and people trying to forget they ever existed.


EZ Squirt

One of the most famous examples of trying to change a product that was not broken, Heinz decided to improve ketchup in two ways. One would be inspired, the other would be truly ghastly.

In October 2000, Heinz took advantage of the love parents have for convenience and the love kids have for bizarrely coloured food and released a green ketchup called EZ Squirt, in a bottle with an easy to use nozzle.

It was a huge success at first and led to blue, purple and “mystery” colours being added to the range.

Unfortunately, after a year the fad was already beginning to wane and by 2006 the bizarre colours were discontinued as crackdowns on artificial dyes swept the globe. Thankfully the squeezable bottle endures to this day.


Tinned Cheeseburger

Trekking Mahlzeiten’s cheeseburger in a tin sounds terrible on paper, as whilst it would have a shelf life of a year without needing to be chilled or frozen, it was awkward to cook as it needed to be boiled in water in the tin before being fished out.

It is somehow worse in reality, being served in a bun and featuring truly appalling, it lives a lonely life in camping shops and reduced to clear aisles.


Stallone’s High-Protein Pudding

This is somehow not a joke. Rocky Balboa himself once sold a tin of pudding and that is somehow the least weird part of the story.

Sly Stallone, best know for being gruff gun-toting John Rambo, started the company Instone in 2004 with a business partner, and they were looking for products to sell.

Around the same time, an inventor by the name of William Brescia was working on a pudding designed for bodybuilders, that would be high in protein and low in fat, and had hired a food scientist and marketing executive to work out the details.

Somehow the two groups got involved, and in November 2004 Stallone’s High Protein Pudding was on the shelves of fitness stores, and Mr Brescia was not happy about this.

He alleged that the man who played Marion “Cobra” Cobretti himself had stolen the recipe from him, although Mr Stallone claimed that the trade secrets his company allegedly stole were common knowledge in the industry.

After damages for $4.9m were overturned, the case appears to have been settled quietly, but still stands as one of the most bizarre failed food ever.