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Fancy Ice Cream Treat Viennetta Is Back, And So Is The Dream Of The 90s

by Rudy Sanchez on 01/08/2021 | 3 Minute Read

Back in the roaring 90s, American consumers were replacing their favorite foods with fancy-seeming, European fare. People started drinking lattes, and restaurants covered everything with balsamic vinegar.

Ice cream brand Breyer’s was famously known for using natural, pronounceable ingredients in their products in the 80s, but that wouldn’t win over the suddenly Continental-craving American consumer, so they introduced Vienetta to the US market. Based on the TV commercial, the frozen dessert, which consisted of ribbons of whipped ice cream with chocolate, was the epitome of class and taste and meant to be served on fancy china and crystal.

Unilever is bringing back the faux-luxury dessert as part of a larger 2021 rollout of new products. While the original packaging would be a standout in the frozen aisles of 1994, the 2021 iteration comes under the Good Humor brand, with the packaging more in-line with Breyer’s sister ice cream brand. Ultimately, it feels like a low-effort nostalgia cash-grab, a missed opportunity to catch millennial eyes with equally vintage packaging and provide the full throwback experience. It is also yet another dip into the 90s pool of memories.

And what’s with all this 90s stuff coming back anyway, and why is it such a thing right now?

Like the deaths of American cheese and fabric softener, you can thank millennials for the revival, who came of age in the same decade. According to Pew Research, millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, meaning the oldest ones are now entering their fourth decade of life. Older millennials will have gone to high school in the mid-to-late 1990s, a time when they were the trendsetters, the cool consumers that brands were starting to cater to, thanks to their disposable income and prime spending years.

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Now, past those halcyon days, millennials are in their 30s and entering their demographic tailspin, so not as cool. They wear their jeans high and tight, set curfews, and ask to speak to the manager. Experiences like chugging Orbitz, munching on Doritos 3D, guzzling Dunkaroos beer, and watching Saved by the Bell Saturday mornings are all things that were once cool and belong almost exclusively to millennials. Tapping into the 90s nostalgia vein will attract this age demographic, one looking for a brief respite from adult concerns with a stroll down memory lane when they were top dog.

In addition to product revivals, brands targeting millennials with nostalgia will tap into things specific to the 90s, finding inspiration in the Memphis Style that strongly defined the era, including 3D graphics, jelly-type textures, neon, pastel colors, and seamless geometric patterns. The long maligned Comic Sans made its debut in the mid-90s, and this revival may even serve as its redemption (also, dear HR professionals, please don’t kill Comic Sans again by overusing it).

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Millennials that grew up in the 90s may not be the consumer base with the most disposable of income, but they can still indulge in the occasional trip down memory lane like with a Vienetta, even if it means an extra hour in the bike lane. Limited-edition products such as SodaStream’s 90s-themed bottle, for instance, used nostalgic flair to create something new-and sustainable-aimed directly at that demographic, and we're going to see a lot more of it in the years to come. And, after the most dumpstery-fire year on record, maybe a sentimental treat can take you somewhere else, even if for a few minutes, is worth the cost of admission.

So if firms are reviving the not-so-forgotten wonders of the 90s, can Wrigley do me a solid and bring back Altoid Sours? Thanks.

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