Dr Pepper

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Dr Pepper is the oldest major soft drink in the United States. It is a “native Texan” originating at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in the town of Waco in 1885. Like its flavor, the origin of Dr Pepper is out-of-the-ordinary.

Charles Alderton, a young pharmacist educated in England, worked at Wade Morrison’s store, where he also served carbonated soft drinks at the soda fountain. He had noted that customers soon tired of drinking the same old fruit flavors. The inventive Alderton decided to make something new by blending several fruit-based flavors. After numerous experiments, he finally created one he liked.

To test his new drink, Alderton first offered it to store owner Morrison, who also found it to his liking. After repeated sample testing by the two, Alderton was ready to offer his new drink to fountain customers. They liked it as well. Other patrons at Morrison’s soda fountain soon learned of Alderton’s new drink and began ordering it. Dr Pepper was born.

Dr Pepper gained such widespread consumer favor that other soda fountain operators in Waco began buying the syrup from Morrison. This soon presented a problem for Alderton and Morrison, as they could no longer produce enough syrup at their fountain to supply the demand.

Robert S. Lazenby, young beverage chemist and proprietor of The Circle “A” Ginger Ale Company in Waco, had also tasted the new drink and was favorably impressed. Morrison spoke to Lazenby about producing the syrup in his bottling plant. Lazenby liked the idea and agreed to produce the syrup. Alderton, the originator, was primarily interested in the pharmacy and had no designs on the drink. He suggested that Morrison and Lazenby develop it further.

In 1904, Lazenby and his son-in-law, J. B. O’Hara, introduced Dr Pepper to almost 20 million people attending the World’s Fair Exposition in St. Louis. The exposition was the setting for more than one major product debut. Hamburgers and hot dogs were first served on buns at the exposition, and the ice cream cone was introduced.

In subsequent years, Morrison and Lazenby remained impressed with the growth of Dr Pepper. They formed a new firm, the Artesian Mfg. & Bottling Company, which later became Dr Pepper Company. Lazenby and O’Hara moved the company from Waco to Dallas in 1922 and opened their new operation in 1923.

From 1910 to 1914, Dr Pepper was identified with the slogan, “King of Beverages.” “Old Doc,” a typical country doctor character with monocle and top hat, became the Dr Pepper trademark character in the 20s and 30s. During that era, O’Hara discovered research proving that sugar produces energy and that the average person typically experiences a sense of fatigue during a normal day at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. That was the origin of a highly successful advertising slogan: “Drink a Bite to Eat at 10, 2 and 4,” which lasted into the 50s.

In 1955, the slogan changed to “the Friendly Pepper-Upper,” which led the brand into the 60s, when Dr Pepper became associated with rock ‘n’ roll music on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” television show.

To broaden the appeal of the flagship brand across the nation, the company started promoting Dr Pepper as “America’s Most Misunderstood Soft Drink” in the late 1960s. In the mid-70s, Dr Pepper Company touted the brand as “the Most Original Soft Drink Ever.” In 1977, the company launched the famous “Be a Pepper” campaign. In 1984, the Dr Pepper campaign switched to the slogan “Hold Out for the Out of the Ordinary.”

“Just What the Dr Ordered” prevailed from 1987 until 1998, when the company acknowledged the brand’s position as a truly mainstream carbonated soft drink with a new slogan: “Now is the Time. This is the Place. Dr Pepper, This is the Taste.”

In 1996, Dr Pepper launched a new proprietary 20-ounce PET (plastic) bottle, the Dr Pepper “Angle Bottle”, in test markets. Many franchisees switched to this new package in 1997. It also introduced new, updated package graphics. “Dr Pepper Makes the World Taste Better” was the slogan in 2000 and 2001. Followed by “Be You,” which remained the slogan until the “One Taste & You Get It” campaign in 2005.

In 1963, Diet Dr Pepper was introduced as “Dietetic Dr Pepper.” Sales were initially slow due to the unfortunate name, which was changed three years later to “Diet Dr Pepper.” In 1991, Diet Dr Pepper was reformulated to use aspartame, and sales soared. In 2002, as Americans became increasingly health conscious, Diet Dr Pepper became a top 10 soft drink in the United States, a position that it holds to this day.

The brand has continued to grow and thrive, and in 2004, Cherry Vanilla and Diet Cherry Vanilla were introduced as part of the “Fountain Favorites” line.

Dr Pepper Company merged with The Seven-Up Company in 1986 to form Dr Pepper/Seven-Up Companies, Inc. Cadbury Schweppes plc acquired the company in March 1995, shortening the name to Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc. In 2004, Cadbury Schweppes combined Dr Pepper/Seven Up with three of its other companies to form Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages.

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What’s in a name?

Legend has it that Wade Morrison moved to Texas from Rural Retreat, Va., where he had worked as a pharmacist for drugstore owner Dr. Charles Pepper. Patrons of Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco suggested naming the new fountain drink after the Virginia doctor. The period after Dr was dropped in 1950 to improve legibility on the 6.5 inch bottles of the time.

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