The Power Drink War Claims a Casualty Jolt Cola
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The Power Drink War Claims a Casualty Jolt Cola

Before 'sports drinks' there was Jolt Cola. A super-sugared, high caffeine beverage that was first on the market and claimed the niche but for briefly. Whatever happened to Jolt Cola energy drink? Do you remember Jolt Cola, the first 'power drink' from the mid 1980s? Its marketing slogan was "“All the Sugar and Twice the Caffeine.”"


The First 'Energy Drink' was Jolt Cola, in 1985

Walking home from the bus today I spied a RED BULL ‘energy drink’ can lying discarded upon the ground. It got me wondering; what ever happened to that upstart cola with all the sugar and twice the caffeine? Where is Jolt Cola?

It was in western New York where I lived that I first heard of and tried this new energy drink product. The year was 1985 when Jolt Cola appeared on the market.

Sugar and High-Caffeine Energy Drink "Jolt Cola"

A can of Jolt Cola, Caffeine X2 ENERGY DRINK

(image source)

The mid-80s were a time when colas and other soft drinks were heavily into ‘diet’ and ‘low sugar’ diet alternatives which seemed an odd bit of timing to introduce such unhealthful decadence like Jolt. While other soft drinks were cutting back on sugar and caffeine, Jolt provided more.

Everyone knew the warnings about sugar and caffeine, but when was cola ever considered anything other than ‘bad for you?’ The premise was to embrace the bad things this product offered. It was a bold venture and it seemed viable because it was new, different and untried.

These days in the U.S., most soft drinks (including Coca Cola and Pepsi) are sweetened with less expensive corn syrup. A slightly older generation that remembers the flavor when pure cane sugar was used can tell you that there most definitely a notable taste difference. Mainly, that the high-fructose corn sweetener leaves an un-savory ‘stickiness’ in the mouth. It makes the drink not as refreshing or as sweet as when pure cane sugar is used.

Coca Cola in Mexico and now in Canada uses pure white cane sugar in many soft drinks and they most definitely have a better taste than the American equivalent. In fairness to Coca Cola, there are some regional sales of their product around the Jewish communities in cities such as Atlanta that release a sugar-sweetened product for their Kosher for Passover communities. This is not widely advertised as the Coca Cola Company probably does not want to incite America as a whole to experience the ‘cane sugar difference’ and demand the costlier product year ‘round.

It is a cost-savings thing to the Coca Cola Company to sweeten their product with less costly corn syrup but some sects of society cannot consume corn and other products (animal products, non-Kosher, etc.) during certain religious periods.

Jolt Cola eventually gave in cost-cutting concerns too and switched to high fructose corn sweeteners. They changed their signature slogan to “All the Flavor and Twice the Caffeine.”

Energy Drink in Disguise: Jolt Power Cola Reclosable Battery Can

Jolt Cola energy drink in the resealable can redesigned to resemble a D-cell battery

(image source)

In the year 2005 the Jolt Cola manufacturer changed their logo and re-introduced their product in a resealable aluminum bottle that outwardly vaguely resembles a large D-cell battery. The packing invoked an image of ‘energy’ witht he lightning bolts. The can itself was resealable and in order to preserve freshness, had a plastic gasket on the lid sort of like the rubber gasket on a thermos bottle.

This wholesale redesign of the product included adding additional flavors such as cherry cola, grape, lemon-lime, orange, passion fruit and other flavors as well as offering their products in returnable bottles in California where it is encouraged to use refillable glass containers for beverages to conserve energy.

Jolt Cola was often featured in films from the 80s and 90s as the energy drink of choice among computer hackers and the up-all-nighters and computer geeks. Empty cans of Jolt have been seen in movies such as Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” and in the 1995 suspense movie “Hackers.”

Jolt Cola was never a threat to the big cola manufacturers Pepsi and Coca Cola as a super-charged cola beverage however. Its redesign as an energy booster beverage didn’t work either as other energy drinks (Red Bull, etc.) had already captured the market and have proved to be more competition than Jolt Cola could handle.

In September of 2009, Jolt Co. Inc. filed for bankruptcy and its assets are being decided and sold-off by the courts to pay its financial obligations. Jolt Cola survived for nearly 25 years and today, it is no more. What will become of the brand is uncertain. Perhaps the brand will be purchased by another company and made their own.

I find myself wanting a sugary, caffeine-laden Jolt Energy Cola right now, -for old-times sake.

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Comments (11)

Jolt really did go against the times when it first came out but never cared for it myself. ACT is a pretty good energy drink today, way better than Red Bull in my book.

RIP: Jolt. I never was into the energy drinks since I avoid caffeine.

I enjoy reading your pieces- great article.

Never liked the stuff. I don't like many of them now.

I'll take a cup of coffee over any of the pop like drinks. The hfcs real ruins the taste of these drinks, I should look for a kosher coke. Never thought of that.

Never had one.. I dont particularly care for caffine later in the day, and dont drink pop in the morning.

I avoid sugar as I have a genetic tendency to become a diabetic. Having colas would be nice once in a while. For health-conscious people, colas with high sugar are never a choice.

Soda is a leading contributor toward the excessive American waistline, and I refuse to participate in the consumption of it.

It's the corn syrup. Sugar is bad enough, but corn sweetener does a host more damage.

James Price

I was actually looking for some Jolt Cola batteries the other day... I wasn't able to find any and had to settle for another energy drink.

I just did a Google search to see what happened to Jolt and I came across your page. Truly a sad day. Hopefully another company steps up to produce a cola type beverage with more punch than Coke or Pepsi.

Linda Not gone, just hard to find.