I’d Like to teach the World to Ingest Lots of Sugar and Carbon Dioxide: a Brief History of Soda Pop, by Alice Hodcroft


Soft drinks can traced back to the mineral water in natural springs which scientist soon discovered was bubbly due to the carbon dioxide it held. Many believed this water had healing properties which was why many were keen to drink it. The first naturally carbonated drinks appeared in England in 1265, such as Dandelion and Burdock. However, the first non-carbonated soft drinks appeared in the 1600s. These were mainly created out of water, lemon juice and honey. In 1676, the first official sale of the lemonade drink occurred after the Compagnie de Limonadiers in Paris were given permission to do so.

In 1767, Doctor Joseph Priestley created the first man made glass of carbonated water. In 1770, Swedish Torbern Bergman invented an apparatus that made carbonated water from chalk by the use of sulfuric acid, this allowed the carbonated water to be produced in large amounts. The popularity of soda in America originated in 1810 when Simons and Rundell of Charleston were given permission to mass manufacture carbonated water for the public. In 1832, the popularity for it grew due when John Mathews invented an efficient apparatus which he sold to soda fountain owners.

Originally the carbonated drink bottles were sealed by cork tops however this allowed some of the carbon dioxide to escape. This problem was solved when, in 1892, the crown cork bottle seal was invented which sealed the bottle successfully. In 1899, glass bottles began to be introduced and soon 57,000 bottles were being produced per day. By the 1920s, these bottles were then placed into six-pack cardboard ‘Hom-Paks’ to transport and were national brands. In the ‘twenties, they were also an alternative to the evils of illegal liquor. By the end of the decade, vending machines were popping up all over, to give the American public easy access to soda. The first aluminium cans, which we are more familiar with today, were introduced in 1952. Plastic bottles were not used for fizzy drinks till 1970. In doing so, the big brands like Coke became part of a world culture, and international ad campaigns.

Today America still has one of the largest varieties of soda flavours for example Coca Cola and Cream Soda, and new flavours are being created each day. Due to the popularity of fizzy drinks, the soft drink industry is expected to continue its market growth in the future.

Soft drinks are probably the most recognised parts of Western culture. Originally they were used as tonics, but soon evolved as sweet accompaniments to meals. The stereotypical image of an American is a child eating a hamburger and chips and drinking a fizzy drink. The importance of soft drinks to the western culture is demonstrated here. They have filtered into being a part of the staple diet; on average an American will consume over 487 cans of soda per year. The impact of this is huge. Fizzy drinks can cause obesity directly (by the fructose corn syrup being turned into stored body fat) or indirectly; the sugar rushes can lead to depression which can lead to emotional eating. The high sugar content can also lead to tooth decay.

But in 1961, rather as cigarettes helped your throat, Coke kept you thin.


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