Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The first soda pop?

The other side of Waco, Texas but equally a part of history is Dr. Pepper.  Why?  Well, a gentleman by the name of Dr. Alderton moved from the east to Waco in 1884 to take up the role of pharmacist at a drug store owned by a Mr. Morrison in the centre of town.  Part, actually a lot, of his role was to create elixirs and other potions from a variety of ingredients to cure his customers' ailments.  But part too was to create nice tasting drinks or potions (again) that were drawn from a combination of things and when combined with recently discovered carbonated water became THE big new thing.  Hence the need for alchemists and pharmacists who knew how to create interesting blends.

Dr. Alderton

Carbonated drinks (or sodas) were first discovered in the 1870's when carbon dioxide (CO2) was first identified as a unique gas which was able to be separated and used on its own for specific purposes, one being man made carbonated drinks.  Fizzy prosecco dates from this time as opposed to champagne which occurs naturally and has been around for ages.

In those days plain water was full of deadly bacteria so was undrinkable unboiled.  Part of the soda water process was to first boil the water and then stuff it full of CO2 -- hence 'Good for Life'.  This is also why beer of all sorts -- including root beer and other non-alcoholic versions -- were created.  Part of the process includes boiling up the mash and that kills any bacteria.

The early soda bottles were ones of a kind with specialist stoppers, some being marbles others with hinged stoppers rather like Grolsch today so that when the bottle was opened, it opened with a loud 'pop' -- hence 'soda pop'.

Dr. Alderton went through dozens of different interations until one day in 1885 (a year ahead of Coca Cola) he used 23 different ingredients in a certain way and certain quantity which proved really popular.  Originally called 'The Waco' this in a couple of years' time would become the original 'Dr. Pepper'.

The original soda fountain -- soda water was originally called 'Crazy Water'

In a couple of years other local drug stores were inundated with requests for a 'Waco' to the point where they asked Mr. Morrison for syrup they could then use.  This was the start of resale.

Originally marketed as 'Good for Life', the brand was rolling.

Dr. Alderton soon left to become a renowned research scientist for a major pharma so Morrison had to hire a new chemist.  The man he hired, Dr Latimer, remixed the syrup as by then they were bottling the stuff for resale and needed the finished product to be better preserved in that format.

Turn of the 20th century bottling plant

The business took off when Morrison and Latimer created a bottling company in 1888.  Latimer had invented a ginger ale that initially was even more popular than Dr. Pepper -- at one point it was the official ginger ale of the US armed forces -- but in time it was Dr. Pepper that lasted.

Fast forward until the end of WWII and Dr. Pepper is still a regional drink but the then CEO changed PR focus to young people figuring get them young and they'll be customers for ever.  It worked and the company became national and went public.  Following acquisition by Cadbury Schweppes, it became global.

The new CEO started at the very bottom and worked his way up.  He's shown here as the best Dr. Pepper salesman
The CEO also started a new business advisory service whereby he would bring in other entrepreneurs in start ups to teach them the way through what sounded like sensible and fairly low key business counseling.

Adam Smith gets everywhere!

After a few more iterations of mergers, de-mergers, P/E buyout followed by another IPO, DrPepper (no space or full stop after the Dr any more) owns Snapple, Seven Up, Canada Dry and a host of other brands and is listed under DRS.

The Museum
But the museum is owned and run by DrP fanatics, not the company, and is a lot of fun.  Loads of old adverts, films and stuff.  Great old delivery trucks and early cool boxes too.

The cafe is traditional too -- for a float add vanilla ice cream, Dr. Pepper syrup then soda water.  First a big glob of soda water then a series of directed smaller jets of soda water to mix up the syrup.

Boy, is it sweet!  We only had a small one but when we were in Alaska in 2006, Alex and Ali would have big jugs of root beer floats for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  How could they do that?

Tremendous even though I actually don't like the stuff.  But I really do like to see how a global brand started up and became one though!  This was terrific.

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