Vault, the citrus “hybrid energy soda” Coca-Cola launched in 2005 to satiate fans of the company’s discontinued late ’90s soft drink Surge, has died at the tender age of six. Coca-Cola confirmed via Twitter today that Vault is now meeting the same fate as Surge—a victim, apparently, of low demand and similarly low sales (or so said the Coca-Cola customer service rep I spoke with just moments ago via 1-800-GET-COKE).
Introduced as the beverage that drank like a soda but “kicked” like an energy drink, Vault was created to quell the sizable consumer element upset over Coca-Cola’s quiet 2002 dumping of “extreme” citrus drink Surge (though the company would never publicly cop to this fact). The formula was more or less the same for both drinks save one major exception: Vault contained roughly twenty more milligrams of caffeine, making it far more “extreme” than Surge, Mountain Dew, and most other youth-oriented pops competing for market share.
Vault was quickly embraced by legions of mourning Surge fans, but the soda had trouble finding footing outside that contingent. A massive commercial push like the one Coca-Cola threw behind Surge when that beverage was first rolled out in 1996 never materialized for Vault, and the drink languished in the shadowy city limits of the carbonated beverage empire for the majority of it existence. The inexplicable introduction of camouflage-patterned cans later in Vault’s run did little to help secure mainstream acceptance.
Anyone who knows me knows I was a bonafide Surge junkie during that sickeningly sweet pop’s heyday. I devoted a large chunk of my time in the early 2000s to researching its demise and keeping tabs on rumors of its resurrection. When I learned of Vault and where was being test-marketed in June of 2005, I drove nine hours non-stop from Florida to the middle of Alabama just so I could get a jump on the rest of humanity. God, what a trip. It was blisteringly hot, and for reasons I can’t recall I drove most of the way with the air conditioning off. I arrived at my hotel streaked from head to toe in the thickest sweat imaginable. Fatigue was arresting my body, but just twenty minutes north of that hotel there allegedly sat a supermarket stocked to the gills with Surge 2.0. So north I drove.
I remember my shrewd decision to buy a Vault from the Coke vending machine just outside the supermarket—which was nestled between some of the most picturesque mountains I’d ever seen—before rushing in and snapping up $50 worth of twelve packs. As I brought that inaugural Vault to my lips, my heart became engulfed in fear. If this tastes like shit, I’ll just have wasted nine hours of my life. Thankfully, Coke didn’t bungle the Surge/Vault recipe, and I felt the most refreshing euphoria of the decade on my taste buds.
The rest of that weekend is very blurry. I remember driving to Plains, Georgia (the hometown of Jimmy Carter) the next day, but I don’t remember why. A plant was purchased, shitty Chinese food was inhaled, locals were teased in a manner I considered playful but they probably construed as threatening. I can also tell you I was wearing a throwback 1986 New York Mets jersey for the majority of this adventure, and I had about a solid pound of styling glue in my hair. The Bush Years were a strange time.
But I digress. I am of course deeply saddened by the discontinuation of Vault, but it comes as no real surprise. Vault saturation levels in convenience stores and supermarkets has definitely fallen off in the last couple of years. You also never see ads on TV for it. That’s just big business. If a plant’s leaves are browning, what are you supposed to do? Cut them off. Vault had a good run. I’ll save the stronger emotions for when my stockpile falls below triple digit fluid ounces.
Thanks, Coke. Thanks for giving Surge another go as Vault. Confucius say third time’s the charm, but I won’t begrudge you if you keep Surge/Vault buried forever post-2011. At least you listened to us for one hot minute.