The History Of Soft Drinks

Soft drinks are some of the most popular beverages in the world. From first making an appearance in the later 18th century to the incredibly wide range of drinks that cater for all possible consumer tastes today, we have a look at a brief history of fizzy pop!

There are, of course, some soft drinks that are much more well known than others, often making headlines for their sugar content, or maybe, like Coca-Cola, enjoying a boost in sales because Donald Trump is calling for the drink to be boycotted (despite still serving it at his Florida resort!)

There are drinks for people who simply enjoy carbonated water or those that enjoy a sweetened fizzy drink, or those who need a boost with energy drinks, and there are diet and sugar-free sodas for diabetics and dieters who want to enjoy a drink without the calories or sugar.

No matter where you were born, the chances are you have tasted at least one of the many varieties and flavours of fizzy drink. We have a look at how they were first created, and how they have evolved throughout the last 200 years.

Soft drinks have a very interesting history, and their constant improvement and the ways that manufacturers manage to interact with us enabled them to become tightly connected to our modern culture and diet.

The first artificially made carbonated water and drinks were made in the late 1700s, but there has been archaeological evidence of those drinks as far back as 2,000 years ago in the ancient Greek and Roman empires who had realised the beneficial medicinal effects of natural springs that produced carbonated water.

It was these medicinal effects that led inventors to try and emulate this effect of carbonisation. The first two pioneers of this were Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman and English scientist Joseph Priestley in the second half of the 18th century.

Following their discovery, others began developing their processes, patents were issued, and manufacturing began, leading the populations of the US and Europe to get the first chance to enjoy the new carbonated water and soft drinks.

However, the popularity of the early soft drinks was not simply due to them being marketed as a fun summer drink’, but because the pharmacists infused these early fizzy drinks with powerful stimulants that actively tried to change the emotional state of the consumer.

The most popular of these stimulants were coffee, cola nuts and coca leaves which were all able to ward off fatigue and clear the mind for brief moments. However, some of these beverages used much stronger stimulants.

Coca-Cola, possibly the most popular soft drink in the world, was made by John Pemberton in 1886 and was made of a mixture of water, sweetener, caramel flavouring and extract of cola leaves. The exact mixture of Coca-Cola is still a closely guarded secret.

Pemberton was inspired to create Coca Wine nerve tonic (later renamed Coca-Cola) to help wean himself off a painkiller addiction. He boldly claimed that the drink cured morphine addiction, indigestion, nerve disorders, headaches, and even impotence, and up until 1929 the drink contained varying amounts of cocaine!

Fanta, the fizzy orange drink, is almost as well known as Coke but has a troubling past. Coca-Cola was hugely popular in Germany in the years leading up to the Second World War and became one of the official sponsors of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

With the outbreak of war, it became increasingly difficult to transport the key ingredients to Germany because of various embargoes on imports to the Nazi regime.

In response the Coca-Cola created Fanta, from the German ‘fantastisch’, using fruit ingredients. Fanta proved popular in Germany but didn’t make it to the world stage until the 1970s.

The history of soft drinks can generally be separated into several distinct ages:

Age of Soda Fountains – Popular devices that mix the ingredients of soda drinks on the spot, often housed at concession stands, pharmacies, train/bus stations, stores and other locations. For more than 100 years they were the main source of soda drink sales around the world. They were surpassed by glass bottles and vending machines in the first half of the 20th century.

Age of Soda Can – Advances in the industrial manufacture of aluminium enabled soft drink produces to start packaging their products into cans in the late 1950s. The introduction of this new packaging format marked the beginning of the modern era of soft drinks, an era that is still active today.

The appearance of Diet Soda drinks – The late 1950s and early 1960s witnessed the birth of sweetened soft drinks that switched from sugar to artificial sweeteners that significantly lowered the caloric value of carbonated drinks. This move was initially slow but was quickly kick-started into higher gear with the introduction of Tab in 1963, Diet 7 Up in 1979 and Diet Coke in 1982.

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