History Of Soft Drinks

Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, 7-UP...all of these are a part of daily life. How did they become so? What spurred their creation?

Any drink that is not hard liquor can be referred to as a 'soft drink'; however, in this piece 'soft drink' refers to carbonated, sweetened beverages also known as soda or soda pop.

Why did people want to drink carbonated water? Well, because bubbling water was equated with health; mineral baths had been popular at least since the times of the ancient Romans. If the waters were good to soak in, the reasoning went, how much better for you to drink.

Scientists searched for the mysterious cause of these bubbles, and then, determining carbon dioxide to be the answer, sought a way to infuse plain water with this gas. Thanks to the efforts of such scientists as Joseph Priestley and John Nooth, this feat was accomplished. Carbonated water was for sale by the end of the 1700s; this is how pharmacies, which will prove important later, get into the picture, by being the supplier of the health-inducing carbonated water.

The urge to flavor this sparkling water came quickly. And the ability to add flavors was keeping pace; in 1784 citric acid was developed from lemon juice. By 1833, carbonated lemonade was for sale in England. Forty years later, ginger ale became a popular drink; clear, rather than cloudy like ginger beer, it was a more attractive beverage. Lemon's Superior Sparkling Ginger Ale has the distinction of receiving the first US trademark registration in 1871.

Four years later, in 1875, pharmacist Charles Hires and his bride spent their honeymoon at a New Jersey farm, where they enjoyed an herb tea made largely of wild roots. The next year, after experimenting with these flavors on his own, he offered his "Hires Root Beer Extract" at the Philadelphia Fair. By 1886, it was available in bottles.

1886 is a key year for soft drink history for other reasons, too: Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, and Moxie were all introduced to the pharmacy-going public.

Jacob's Pharmacy of Atlanta, Georgia, became the debut site for Coca-Cola. Conceived of as a headache remedy by pharmacist John Pemberton, the syrup was sold on a trial basis to William Venable, the counterman at Jacob's. Venable added a shot of the syrup, made in part from the leaves of the coca plant and the caffeine-laced juice of the kola nut. In his first year of business, Pemberton made twenty-five dollars, which didn't quite pay for the almost seventy-five dollars he spent in advertising.

Moxie, which rivals Coca-Cola in these early years, was the drink with a difference--the main ingredient is not carbonated water, but rather, the herb gentian. It's an acquired taste.

The Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, Texas, introduced the artificially flavored black cherry drink called Dr. Pepper, the "King of Beverages, Free from Caffeine". (Caffeine would be added later.) There are, according to the Dr. Pepper Museum, fifteen stories that tell who developed it and how the drink was named. Most agree that either Robert Lazenby, a chemist, or Wade Morrison, the pharmacy owner, created the drink. Whatever the facts, the two quickly became partners in the beverage business. The name allegedly comes from Confederate Army doctor Charles Pepper, the man that refused to permit Morrison to marry Miss Pepper.

A few years later, Clicquot Club Ginger Ale, named for a famous Champagne, became the first nationally advertised soft drink.

In 1903, Pepsi-Cola, created as a cure for dyspepsia, went into business. Royal-Crown Cola debuted in Columbus, Georgia in 1905. Canada Dry Ginger Ale was introduced in 1908 by John McLaughlin. Its appeal was largely in its pale color; earlier ginger ales had been dark.

World War One nearly shut down this burgeoning industry; the US Food Administration deemed it inessential, especially in the face of the severe sugar shortages. Prohibition (1920-1933) gave it a big push, however. Once hard liquor was no longer legally available, consumers that desired a flavorful drink increasingly chose these carbonated beverages. In addition, the advent of six-packs of bottled sodas helped the drink find a place at home, as opposed to only being consumed at the local pharmacy or restaurant.

The industry was dealt a double blow when Prohibition ends since the Depression was in full swing. Many smaller companies west out of business. 7-Up, which had debuted in 1929 as Lithiated Lemon, began to advertise itself as a great mixer for hard liquor in 1933 when Prohibition ended. Canada Dry followed suit in 1936, weathering the crisis by developing Tom Collins mix, tonic water, and club soda.

1933 saw other developments--Coca-Cola began marketing a new fountain mixer that combines the syrup and water automatically, providing a uniformity of flavor that individual soda fountains couldn't achieve. Pepsi-Cola began selling its beverage in 12-ounce bottles, as opposed to the 6- and 8-ounce bottles preferred by the competition. In 1939, this lead to Pepsi's most famous jingle:

Pepsi Cola hits the spot

Twelve full ounces, that's a lot

Twice as much for a nickel, too

Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.

During World War II, the US Food Administration limited the access to soft drinks to the general public. However, the soldier's morale wasn't allowed to suffer so their access to the sweet drinks was guaranteed by the building of overseas plants.

The 1960's saw the beginnings of the diet drink industry. No-Cal Ginger Ale was the first diet soft drink , and was created in 1952 by Kirsch Beverages of Brooklyn, New York. Saccharine-sweetened, it was designed for diabetics, not dieters. It's distribution remains local. In 1962, Diet-Rite Cola, from the Royal Crown Company, was the first drink sold nationwide. It was sweetened with cyclamates. Coca-Cola introduces Tab the following year. Diet Pepsi went on the market in 1965. In the 1980s, manufacturers started using aspartame, under the trade name Nutra-Sweet. Consumers liked the more 'natural' taste.

In the 1980s, caffeine-free versions of soft drinks became more popular as well. Jolt Cola, in the late 1980s, reacted as a backlash movement, proclaiming that it has twice the caffeine as regular colas. Despite popularity on college campuses, it never became the household name that the more established companies enjoy. In the 1990s, clear versions of popular soft drinks enjoyed a brief fad. Fruit juice based soft drinks began to be more popular.

The soft drink industry has grown steadily since its beginnings, and has weathered economic downturns, wars, and the health movement; through constant adaptation and market research, they anticipate and meet the public's ever-changing taste.

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