It was the fall of 1990, and a new and inexpensive drink, Tropical Fantasy, hit the inner-city scene like gangbusters across the country. Its popularity spread like wildfire, but it was only a matter of time before it became riddled with Black conspiracy theory rumors.
With its yummy taste and cheap price of 49 cents for 20 ounces, Tropical Fantasy, which was manufactured by Brooklyn Bottling out of New York City, was way lower than any of the more mainstream soft drinks and other beverages. Nearly a year in to taking the urban scene by storm, though, Tropical Fantasy turned into an urban nightmare.
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Anonymous pamphlets began popping up in hoods all across the United States, saying that Tropical Fantasy contained a secret concoction that was added by the White supremacist gang the Ku Klux Klan. The alleged additive was intended for Black men, and the ingredient’s potent power could sterilize them, rendering them unable to have children.
Brooklyn Bottling’s advertising was aimed at the Black consumer: The location of its products was predominantly in areas with high concentrations of African Americans, so the company was an easy target for conspiracy. The company tried to stop the false rumors, regarding its products, but were unsuccessful.
Upon hearing about the conspiracy theory, folks panicked and stopped buying the Tropical Fantasy sodas: Sales plummeted by a whopping 70 percent, and the drink was renamed “Tropical Fanticide,” with many of the company’s storekeepers and truck drivers being targeted and attacked.
Rumors began swirling that Coke and Pepsi, the competitors of Tropical Fantasy, were behind the false rumors that were killing the once-wildly-successful soft drink company so that they could regain their throne. Of course, company reps for the bottling companies denied having any role in trying to destroy their competition.
Desperate to combat the sterilization rumor that was putting them on a fast track to bankruptcy, Brooklyn Bottling hired a Black public relations firm. The company sent out trucks wrapped in advertising that denied the falsehoods and even took Tropical Fantasy to the feds to be tested by the FDA, so they could publicly announce the agency’s negative findings.
Unfortunately, even though Brooklyn Bottling had absolutely exhausted their anti-conspiracy theory campaigns, their soft drink was still rejected by the Black masses.
Until David Dinkins, who was New York City’s first Black mayor, came to their rescue. For many, particularly Blacks, Dinkins was highly respected, nicknamed “Mr. Nice Guy,” and stood for integrity. The troubled company asked Dinkins to drink one of their beverages on television in order to dispel the destructive rumors surrounding them.
And he did!
One month after Mayor Dinkins drank a Tropical Fantasy on TV, Brooklyn Bottling was back in the Black (so to speak).
Today, many young people still refer to Tropical Fantasy as “Nutties,” because of the stories told to them by folks who remember that, once upon a time, the drink was rumored to be a sperm killer.