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Issue 974

Fabulous Food


• In 1934 the Pacific Citrus Products Company wanted to add to their line-up of ice cream toppings, so they invented a fruity syrup. They marketed it to restaurants and soda fountains as a topping, and sold it to ice cream manufacturers as a base for sherbet.

Two glasses of ice cold lemonade

• Soda jerks discovered that the syrup, when mixed with water, made a fruit-flavored drink their customers loved. The customers asked the soda jerks where they could buy the drink so they could have it at home, but it wasn’t commercially available.

• Seeing the demand, the company began to market the drink in quart bottles and 46-ounce cans. The product, made from seven flavors including pineapple, passion fruit, papaya, and guava, adopted a tropical theme and became increasingly popular.

• When sales slumped, the company hired a public relations firm who came up with a new ad campaign that consisted of a cartoon character offering people a drink and then punching them in the face.

• They wanted to air the new ad on TV but they couldn’t afford the advertising rates, so in 1962 they bought a single inexpensive spot on “The Tonight Show.” The fruit drink was a product geared towards mothers and children, not the late-night crowd, but the show’s host, Jack Paar, was so surprised by the cartoon hostility that he insisted the director run the ad a second time, for free, so he could make fun of it. This caused an unprecedented run on the product and sales never slowed from there.

• What’s the name of the drink? Hawaiian Punch. The main ingredients of the first Hawaiian Punch recipe were shipped from the Hawaiian Islands, thus the origin of the name. Today it’s owned by the Plano, Texas-based Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc.

• Edwin Perkins was 11 years old in 1900 when a friend of his named Kitty showed him a new product, a powdered gelatin called Jell-O. Edwin was fascinated by this.

• At age 13 he responded to an ad in the back of a magazine and received a kit giving instructions in how to manufacture pre-packaged foods. Edwin was soon manufacturing all kinds of products and experimenting with new ingredients.

• Most of the products he made were things he could create using his own chemistry set. When he grew up, he married Kitty and they went into business together, producing a variety of packaged foods.

• One of his most popular products was a drink called Fruit Smack. Made from concentrated fruit syrup, it was mixed with water, poured into bottles, and corked. This was a tedious task, and the bottles often broke during shipping.

• Kitty reminded him of the powdered gelatin and wondered if he couldn’t market a powdered drink mix. He experimented with removing all liquid from the fruit syrup, and by 1927 had invented a powdered drink. It went on the market for 10 cents per packet.

• During the Great Depression, the price dropped to a nickel a packet and business boomed. By 1950 he had 350 employees at his plant in Chicago. He was 64 years old when he sold out to General Foods in 1953.

• Today more than 563 million gallons of his drink mix are consumed every year. What’s it called? Kool-Aid, originally spelled Kool-Ade. Today more than 563 million gallons of it are consumed each year, with the biggest sales being just before and after the 4th of July. The Kool-Aid Man, originally known as the Pitcher Man, first crashed onto the scene in 1975. Over the years, there have been 74 different flavors of Kool-Aid.