As a child, soft drinks were around, but not so readily available. The days of fast food, with a soft drink as an accompaniment, were a long way off in the UK. Lemonade, Coca-cola, Lucozade and the odd bottle of Cream Soda spring to mind, as an occasional treat or in the case of Lucozade to help the convalescent. There were probably more soft drinks available but, as money was tight, soft drinks were classed as a luxury and rarely bought. The USA embraced soft drinks before the UK but these drinks have actually been around much longer than most of us realise.
Mineral Water, which is popular these days, was one of the first soft drinks. The naturally occuring gas carbonium or carbon dioxide provided the pleasant fizzing sensation. This drink would have been enjoyed for centuries in its natural state. However the first marketed soft drinks were flat, by which I mean non carbonated.
In the 17th century drinks that were made from lemon juice, water and honey were made. Many people still drink lemon and honey today but usually as an aid to recovery when suffering from a sore throat or a cold. This drink however was the first Lemonade.
Initially it was a French company that was granted the monopoly for producing and supplying this lemonade. The English were not far behind though. The first glass of carbonated water, that was produced and had not occurred naturally, was made in 1767 by Dr Joseph Priestly. By 1770 it was the Swedish who were improving the soft drink market. Torbern Bergman invented a piece of equipment that would enable the production of carbonated water for the first time. The term soda water was used for the first time in 1798.
Forty years later US manufacturers were granted a patent to enable them to make their own equipment for producing imitation mineral water. The resulting drinks took some time to become popular though. In fact it was 1832 before this happened. Once John Matthews had the necessary equipment to mass produce carbonated water sales rocketed.
Through the 1800s the process of producing carbonated water was refined. There were various problems such as gas escaping from the bottles and what to use as suitable flavourings but these were gradually solved. One by one hurdles were overcome. Some of the soft drinks became more medicinal, with the addition of a variety of herbs, such as sarsaparilla.
By the end of the 1800s the manufacture of the bottles, which held the soft drink, was mechanised. Gone were the days of hand blown bottles which were so labour intensive. Bottle making machines meant that soft drink production could increase rapidly. By the 1920s the fore rummer to our present day “six pack” was created. Vending machines began serving soft drinks and the soft drink industry became firmly established across the world.
In 1929 a lemon and lime drink, which was to become 7-Up eventually, was produced. It was the 1950s before other innovations began to happen though. The first diet soft drink, which manufacturers claimed to have no calories, and then the use of aluminium cans instead of glass bottles both were 1950s happenings.
From the 1950s onward, to the present day, sales of soft drinks have spiralled out of control. These days there is still much debate about just how good or bad such drinks are for us. One thing for sure though is that we still consume many, many soft drinks. Youngsters in particular seem to love fizzy soft drinks. As such drinks are so readily available, currently the soft drinks market looks set to be one of the few industries that will carry on prospering, for many years to come.
1. Soft drink
2. Introduction to Pop – The History of Soft Drinks – Inventors – About.com