Secrets Behind The Famous Beverage Brands

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Nowadays most of us can’t go a day without drinking at least one can of soda. From our early years when soda was only brought out at parties and special occasions, to adulthood where fridges are stocked with fizzy delights of varying colors and flavors (and alcohol percentages), soft drinks and other beverages are a multi-billion dollar industry with no sign of slowing down. Even the odd scandal here or lawsuit there haven’t stopped the biggest brands from plowing on in pursuit of market dominance. Over the years we have seen countless iconic commercials and ad campaigns, the sound of fizz being poured into glass takes us back to hazy summer days, these brands have built an emotional connection with us to the point where they feel like part of the family.

This creates a mind boggling phenomenon of brand warfare between fans of different beverages; never bigger than Coca-Cola vs PepsiCo in the 1980s. The companies themselves weren’t afraid to play mind games and use common misconceptions to further their own mythos either. With all their success there are also some well-kept secrets the biggest manufacturers don’t want being spread around a dinner table. Here are four secrets behind famous beverage brands they may not want you to find out. They aren’t going to ruin reputations or start a war (thankfully, that’s not what we need right now, or ever) but they are some interesting little factoids that may be lost to time if we don’t dig them up now and again.

Coca-Cola’s Recipe Isn’t As Unchanged As They Say

Coca-Cola is probably the world’s biggest and most recognizable name in beverage manufacturing. They proudly claim to use the same recipe that started the meteoric rise of a pop-culture icon over a century ago. Fortunately, some small changes have been made to the original recipe, as the prototype ingredients that went on to be the number one carbonated beverage in the world included cocaine and alcohol and was invented to help cure its creator’s morphine addiction. It worked, but it probably wasn’t the greatest compromise John Pemberton ever made.

Indeed trace amounts of cocaine could be found in the beverage until the late 1920s due to the use of the coca leaf during production. Before we all grab our pitchforks and head for Coca-Cola HQ it should be made known that cocaine was actually legal in the US until 1914. Like a lot of misused ‘medicines’ cocaine was a popular healing tonic, and was used in tablets and powders to cure everything from headaches to impotence. Once scientists realized that cocaine did not in fact cure people’s constipation (another ailment it was used to treat, seriously) and when public opinion turned against the narcotic was removed from the world’s most recognizable soft drink. So even though the giant beverage icon claims to be unaltered in over a century, admitting to change might not be such a bad thing. And don’t even get started on ‘New Coke’, the radical change of formula that caused close to mass hysteria among die-hard Coca-Cola fans and lasted a miserable 77 days before being pulled for the original recipe. (Alcohol is still present in minuscule levels today.)

The ‘American’ Beer That Came From Overseas

Australians are forever incredulous at the claim that Foster’s lager is a creation of theirs. We see it as the quintessential Australian alcohol because the campaigns worldwide told us as much. However, the Aussies barely touch the stuff, and it is actually quite rare Down Under. It was created in Australia but by two Irish-Americans who had recently moved across from the States. Its brewing home these days is split between Manchester for the UK drinkers and Texas for the US. While Australia doesn’t want a beer that it has a claim to, across the pond the US label a certain bottled favorite as a national treasure, when its roots actually lie in Eastern Europe.

Budweiser can be found behind pretty much any US bar such is the popularity of the beverage with the American public. However, the true origins of the beer can be traced way back to the 13th century and what we now know as the Czech Republic. It was there that Budejovicky Budvar – which translates into Budweiser – was brewed, popularized, and then copied around 600 years later by Adolphus Busch in St. Louis. The man admitted so much himself when he said his basic ambition was to create something that tasted and looked like the Czech beer. The fact that the giant American beer company with global ties is still locked in various disputes, lawsuits, and counter-suits with Budejovicky Budvar over who gets to retain their name is something that they’d rather be forgotten.

The 23 ‘Flavors’ Of Dr. Pepper

Dr. Pepper is the oldest soft drink in America dating back to 1885, so there’s a nice little fact for you straight away, if not a mindblowing secret. It snuck into the market just one year before Coca-Cola arrived and has stuck around just as long with a relatively unknown recipe. The beverage manufacturers behind Dr. Pepper claimed the drink has 23 flavors on its list of ingredients but no-one outside the company can lay claim to knowing what they are. Just take a quick look around the internet and you’ll see fans of the beverage listing off guesses like amaretto, lavender, carrot, vanilla and many, many more. The fact that Dr. Pepper’s recipe is still unknown to the public is astounding, and the level of interest and theories behind it are fascinating, especially when you consider we’re trying to work out a soft drink recipe and not the codes for world peace or something

Interesting story from my area: in high school rumors began circulating that Dr. Pepper made you infertile. I’ve heard this same rumor since about a lot of different brands and can only come to the conclusion that it is started by an anti-Dr. Pepper brigade with the sole intention of bringing an enormous brand name down by telling kids it stops them going through puberty. Again, all this is about a soft drink. The world is a strange place but we will all rejoice the day someone figures out every one of those 23 ingredients.

Pepsi And Coca-Cola Change Beverage Manufacturing To Avoid Cancer Label

Back in 2012 both Coca-Cola and their closest rivals through the soda wars of the 1980s – Pepsi Cola – were forced to either change the way they made their caramel flavoring to contain less of the chemical 4-MEI or else include a cancer warning label on their products in the US going forwards. 4-MEI had been tested on mice and rats and had brought positive results for cancers including leukemia. While the FDA found that humans would need to consume over a thousand cans a day to hit the same risk as animals, California ruled 4-MEI a carcinogen and ordered the beverage giants to change the caramel flavoring or add a warning label, to which both opted for the former.

The beverage manufacturer relented by changing the process of creating their flavoring rather than changing the recipe outright. This example is one replicated throughout the beverage industry as a way to keep the ingredients ‘unchanged’ while updating processing and manufacturer techniques. It should be noted that, while PepsiCo and Coca-Cola both changed their formula nationwide to simplify production, the rest of the world still uses the same recipe containing 4-MEI that was the source of California’s ultimatum. At any rate, the change didn’t affect the taste or popularity of either drink and has quickly been forgotten about, another ‘change’ that will no doubt go unclaimed.

Beverage companies don’t exactly hide from the rumor and innuendo surrounding them. Conspiracy theories and whodunnits create free PR and fantastic narrative for the brand who can sit back and watch the dollars come in. The stories of secret recipes (some true, some utterly ludicrous) being kept safeguarded in vaults or split in two between the sole holders of their knowledge are a testament to the astounding effect the soft drink industry has had on our culture. Rumors of various beverages decreasing fertility or libido ran wild around my high school as factions formed on both sides of a divide based on the kind of carbonated drink you bought at lunchtime. Fizzy drinks have embedded themselves in our lives and have brought with them their own shady pasts for us to uncover.

There will always be a beverage for someone. One brand, one flavor, one commercial will transport us right back to the first time we tried it so we can relive the memory all over again. If that beverage for you happens to be alcoholic then please drink responsibly. If that drink is a carbonated beverage then still please drink responsibly. While it would take over a thousand cans of Pepsi or Coke’s old recipes to cause cancerous side-effects fizzy drinks are intrinsically linked to diabetes and obesity. Everything in moderation, I say.

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