Why The Discontinued Hi-C Drink Keeps Making Comebacks

There have been a lot of long-lost products from Millennials' childhoods: Butterfinger BB's are the discontinued candy we wish we had back, and Dunkaroos were so beloved that Americans still smuggle them in from Canada. Sometimes these products are lost forever, but sometimes they make comebacks, as evidenced by the fact that even though Surge was discontinued, you can still find it in specific locations. And among these lost products that occasionally pop back up, it's possible none are as legendary as Hi-C's Ghosbusters-themed Ecto Cooler.

Ecto Cooler was popular enough among a specific age demographic to get a shout-out on FX's "The Bear" without even needing an explanation as to what it was (in addition to appearances on Cartoon Network's "Rick and Morty" and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo on Disney's "Loki"). But why does Ecto Cooler keep reappearing? Three reasons: it's delicious (and unique), it's nostalgic, and the Ghostbusters franchise on which its branding is based keeps being resurrected.

Ecto Cooler was more popular than the show that inspired it

After "Ghostbusters" became a smash hit in 1984, it eventually followed the trend of many movies in the '80s and '90s and spawned a Saturday-morning cartoon TV show. The result — titled "The Real Ghostbusters" due to trademark disputes with another show — began airing in 1986 and ran for seven seasons. As part of a promotional tie-in, Hi-C rebranded an existing drink — previously known as "Citrus Cooler," a combination of orange and tangerine flavors — as Ecto Cooler, running with the Ghostbusters theme.

It was an easy transition; the original Citrus Cooler was even bright green. It was expected to be a short-run promotional tie-in, but Ecto Cooler was a massive hit to the point where it survived the cancellation of the TV series in 1991, running under its same name until 2001. Hi-C actually didn't fully drop the product even then, as it was renamed "Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen," then "Crazy Citrus Cooler" in 2006, before finally being officially discontinued in 2007. But it was just too popular with a certain demographic to stay gone for good.

Ecto Cooler is an ineffable reminder of childhood

Millennial nostalgia and series reboots are a force to be reckoned with, so Ecto Cooler didn't stay permanently gone. Every time there was a new Ghostbusters movie — such as "Ghostbusters" (2016) and "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" (2021) — Ecto Cooler made a limited-run return. Though it wasn't brought back for 2024's "Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire," it seems a matter of time until it rears its head again.

But why, though? A few simple reasons. First, as anyone who has ever had Ecto Cooler can tell you, it not only tastes good, it tastes unique (there aren't exactly a ton of orange-tangerine products on the juice market). Childhood nostalgia is also a powerful force, and there's something comforting about enjoying the products you grew up with — and make no mistake, this stuff was very popular during its heyday. Most importantly, these factors combine to make it an easy tie-in anytime Hollywood wants to resurrect the Ghostbusters franchise. So, while Ecto Cooler may never permanently return to store shelves, chances are we'll keep seeing it from time to time — which is great news for everyone who loves the stuff.