Remembering DHI’s “G.I. Joe Survival Beverages”

The 4 flavors of the GIjOE Survival Beverages and their DHI shipping carton. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Back in 2000, Hasbro made a very unusual product-extension decision, allowing Desert Holdings, Inc. (DHI) to use its GIjOE brand name and related 1960s logo for a line of sugar drinks dubbed “GIjOE Survival Beverages.” The four flavors featured upbeat military names such as Commando Cherry, Platoon Punch, Gung-Ho Grape and Infantry Orange. The drinks were to be sold in stores nationwide and targeted primarily to young fans of America’s favorite action figure—GIjOE. It seemed like a “win-win” business plan all around.

Indeed, the product’s initial concept was actually very sound. DHI had chosen a very popular brand name, selected popular flavors and added lots of sugar. Kids should’a loved ‘em, right? What could possibly go wrong? Well, plenty, as it would turn out. Despite the fact they were meant for kids, for some reason, the new drinks were not carbonated. To most, they tasted like a flat combination of ultra-sugary Kool-Aid and…plastic…or something (yuck).

The drinks were poorly received by the public and sales quickly flatlined. I remember trying out all four flavors myself, HOPING that one of them would redeem their purchase price. But they were all bad. They tasted more like the plastic jug than the flavors on the label, and I poured them all out. And I wasn’t alone. All across the country, jugs of GIjOE Survival Beverage were being poured down the drain. The rest was returned to DHI to be destroyed or sat on store shelves for months and sometimes YEARS before finally being sold. According to GIjOE fan Samus Aran on TNI:

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The graphics on the “canteens” were great. But the drink inside was NOT. Too bad. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“I remember seeing these at Ocean State Job Lot (a New-England centered bargain store). They were little plastic canteens, filled with juices in 4 flavors. Knowing the store I got them from, they were probably a couple of YEARS old. Yes, I drank them anyway. They were ‘vitamin-fortified!’ But geez, they tasted like crap. Just like nasty cough syrup or something. But hey, they were automatically cool because they had the official GIjOE stamp-of-approval. Yeah!”

SIX YEARS LATER—the forgotten beverage suddenly made national news headlines. It was reported that an odd-tasting concoction had caused quite a scare at a middle school in Kansas. In the ARTICLE as reported by the Associated Press, an eighth-grader found himself in serious trouble after bringing one of the GIjOE canteens to school:
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“A student was sentenced to six months of probation for contaminating a teacher’s coffee with a cherry sports drink. The boy brought the drink to school and a classmate put a capful into the teacher’s coffee as part of a prank. The prosecutor said the boy brought a ‘GIjOE Survival Beverage’ to school intending to place it in the teacher’s coffee. The teacher went to a hospital on Jan. 5, prosecutor Kristiane Gray said.”

Bottom Line: Ouch. “To a hospital.” Oh well…Despite the best of intentions, DHI’s GIjOE Survival Beverage ultimately went down in beverage history as a complete and utter flop. Today, over 12 years later, some shipping boxes and plastic canteens still remain in the hands of private collectors and can also be found for sale on ebay. The rest were (mercifully) dumped out long ago.

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