Back in college, we used to buy this cheap, ultra-caffeinated, citrus-flavored soft drink called Kick. A big part of the fun of the stuff was its chintzy, over-the-top packaging, including a zippy lightning-bolt logo and glaring, tongue-in-cheek warning label: “Do not taunt, provoke or aggravate this product.” Also: It provided ample fuel for wee-hour study sessions or, more likely, impromptu marathons of The Simpsons. My roommate drank six in a row one time and didn’t sleep all night.
It was an obvious, if ultimately ill-fated, attempt by the Georgia-based Royal Crown Company to compete with big-name citrus sodas like PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew and Coca-Cola’s Mellow Yellow. It was, in other words, generic. That’s what you’d call any sort of affordable no-name alternative to a big-brand item back then.
As humorous as it seemed at the time, Kick was hardly the most hilariously generic soft drink in history, even within the fiercely competitive Mountain Dew–wannabe category (see: Mountain Shoutin’ above).
Tragically, Kick isn’t around anymore, and even if it were, you probably wouldn’t hear anyone drop the G word. Today, these are known as “store brands” or “private labels,” and there’s even an industry trade group to promote them. It is a big business, apparently. And getting bigger all the time.
According to the Wall Street Journal, online retail giant Amazon is about to start selling its own in-house brands of nuts, spices, tea, coffee and other food items. The move would put Amazon in the same league as more traditional retailers, like Costco, Walmart and Whole Foods, all of whom market their own product lines in addition to the name-brand stuff. Amazon will reportedly market its products under the names Wickedly Prime for snacks and Happy Belly for teas and oils.
Culturally, it seems, Americans have warmed to these so-called off-brands “since the days of generically named products sold in plain white packaging,” per the Journal, which reports that store brands reached $118.4 billion in U.S. sales in 2015.
Now that a reputed innovator like Amazon is getting involved, the generic food genre suddenly takes on a new sort of glamour. Or at least a greater sense of legitimacy.
And if the online giant decides to get into the soft-drink game, well, it turns out that the exciting name Kick is currently available.