custom beverage developmentSoda makes up 65% of the sales of sugary drinks. That’s more than any juice, tea, coffee, or sports drink option you can think of. What makes it so popular and how long has it been around? In order to answer that question, you need to go back to the beginning and find out the whole history of soft drinks across the world. Who knows? By the end of it you may even be inspired to start your own custom beverage development.

The Earliest Known Soft Drink

The very first soft drink bore little resemblance to the soda you might make if you were to create your own drink today. In 1676, although carbonization hadn’t been invented yet, there was a popular French beverage that included lemon juice for flavor and honey as a sweetener.

It wasn’t until the 1700’s that carbonated water was invented, and it wasn’t added to a particular flavor of water until J.J. Schweppe (yes that Schweppe) created carbonated mineral water in 1783. In the early 1800s, Joseph Hawkins received a U.S. patent for sparkling mineral water. At first, its main purpose was in pharmacies as a kind of medicine.

Adding Flavor

In the 1830s people stopped seeing sparkling water for just its medicinal value and started adding sugar and flavor to it. They experimented with ginger, herbs, vanilla, fruit, and roots (think like root beer). If you’re looking to learn how to make your own drink, consider taking inspiration from these early pioneers of soft drinks, and add lots of natural flavors.

By the 1860s soda fountains were common in drug stores, but they weren’t codified or the same all around. Every soda fountain would have a slightly different variety of sodas even if they used similar ingredients. You may be surprised to learn that a soda fountain employee combined popular ingredients to create the ice cream float long before the creation of cola.

Soda Brands Emerge

In the very late 1800s and early 1900s, brands started to emerge as specific soda flavors became more popular. Most of these companies (some of which we’re still very familiar with today) were started by soda jerks at drug stores experimenting until they found something really great. That should inspire you to make your own drink and see where the opportunity takes you.

Some of the earliest soda brands that are still around today were Dr. Pepper which was founded in Waco, Texas in 1885, Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia in 1886, and Pepsi Cola in New Bern, North Carolina in 1893.

There were popular middle-class sentiments at the time of temperance and a slower pace. Soda brands used these as major selling points in their branding. They claimed that soft drinks could be used as an alternative to alcoholic beverages, but still provided you with that invigorating feeling.


An important aspect of the early success of soda companies was their method of transportation. Rather than distributing bottles of the actual soda, Coca-Cola would sell smaller bottles of syrup concentrate to licensed distributors. This greatly cut down on shipping costs. However, the creator of Coca-Cola, Asa Candler, sold the bottling rights and ended up losing out on a lot of money later on.

Despite that one failure, experiments done with the advertising and marketing methods of Coca-Cola had a permanent impact on the way marketing of food and beverages is done even to this day. For this reason, Coca-Cola has become a symbol of American culture and has continued to sell well all over the world.  There are only two countries where it isn’t sold: North Korea and Cuba.

Soda On TV

With the dawn of television, there was a new kind of advertising right in every family’s home. Soda companies took the lead in advertising innovations during this time by employing the use of slogans, celebrity endorsements, product placement in movies and TV shows, and other mass marketing techniques.

Soda has been on top of every trend in American culture and media. During the 1960s, when people began to show more concern for earth conservation and healthy eating, soda companies responded. They came out with easily recyclable or reusable containers, and they started developing low and no-calorie soda options.

Coke and Pepsi Rivalry

You can’t talk about the history of soda without acknowledging the famous rivalry between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Since the 1930s, they’ve been trying to stay ahead of each other beginning with Pepsi’s campaign of selling a larger size soda can for the same price as Coke’s smaller can. There was also the Pepsi blind taste test which led to Coca Cola changing their recipe (a fruitless experiment).

Today, Coke is ahead in the percentage of the soft drink market, but the rivalry still stands. There are plenty of people who would go to their graves proclaiming the superiority of Pepsi.

Custom Beverage Development

Today, anyone can get into the soft drinks business. Lots of people are looking for ways to incorporate natural flavors, unique cultural spices, and other exciting qualities into their sodas. And they’re finding great success too.

All you need is a drink lab to help you bring your ideas to life, starting with a brief, and ending with a product that you’ll be ready to start marketing.

Soda: From Yesterday To the Future

Now that you know the history of soda, you should feel inspired to start your own custom beverage development. The only limit is your imagination. Think about the flavors you’ve always thought would be good in a soft or sports drink, and give it a go!

Ready to get started and design your own drink? Contact us today to begin!