Keurig Dr Pepper is the oldest major manufacturer of soft drink concentrates and syrups in the United States. Dr Pepper is America’s unique flavor and was created, manufactured and sold beginning in 1885 in the Central Texas town of Waco.
Waco: Where it All Began
Dr Pepper is a “native Texan,” originating at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store. It is the oldest of the major brand soft drinks in America. Like its flavor, the origin of Dr Pepper is out-of-the-ordinary. Charles Alderton, a young pharmacist working at Morrison’s store, is believed to be the inventor of the now famous drink. Alderton spent most of his time mixing up medicine for the people of Waco, but in his spare time he liked to serve carbonated drinks at the soda fountain. He liked the way the drug store smelled, with all of the fruit syrup flavor smells mixing together in the air. He decided to create a drink that tasted like that smell. He kept a journal, and after numerous experiments he finally hit upon a mixture of fruit syrups that he liked.
Naming Dr Pepper
To test his new drink, he 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 some of the 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 by asking him to shoot them a “Waco.”
Morrison is credited with naming the drink “Dr. Pepper” (the period was dropped in the 1950s). Unfortunately, the origin for the name is unclear. The Museum has collected over a dozen different stories on how the drink became known as Dr Pepper.
Becoming the Dr. Pepper Company
Dr Pepper gained such widespread consumer favor that other soda fountain operators in Waco began buying the syrup from Morrison and serving it. This soon presented a problem for Alderton and Morrison. They could no longer produce enough at their fountain to supply the demand.
Robert S. Lazenby, a young beverage chemist, had also tasted the new drink and he, too, was impressed. Alderton, the inventor, was primarily interested in pharmacy work and had no designs on the drink. He suggested that Morrison and Lazenby develop it further.
Morrison and Lazenby were impressed with the growth of Dr Pepper. In 1891, they formed a new firm, the Artesian Mfg. & Bottling Company, which later became Dr Pepper Company. Lazenby and his son-in-law, J.B. O’Hara moved the company from Waco to Dallas in 1923.
The 1904 World’s Fair
In 1904, Lazenby introduced Dr Pepper to almost 20 million people attending the 1904 World’s Fair Exposition in St. Louis. The exposition was the setting for more than one major product debut. Hamburgers and frankfurters were first served on buns at the exposition, and the ice cream cone was first served in large numbers.
Dr Pepper Icons and Slogans
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 1920s and 1930s. During that era, research was discovered proving that sugar provided energy and that the average person experiences a letdown during the normal day at 10:30a.m., 2:30p.m. and 4:30p.m. A contest was held for the creation of an ad using this new information. The winner of the ad campaign came up with the famous advertising slogan, “Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2, and 4.” Dr Pepper’s slogan in the 1950s was “the friendly Pepper-Upper,” which led the brand into the 1960s when it became associated with rock and roll music and on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand TV show.
With changing times came changing slogans. To broaden its appeal across the nation, Dr Pepper hailed itself as “the most misunderstood soft drink,” and then in the 1970s became “the most original soft drink ever in the whole wide world.” In 1977, Dr Pepper advertising was marked by the famous “Be a Pepper” campaign, followed by “Be You.” The newest slogan out today is “There’s just more to it,” which coordinates with the emphasis on the 23 fruit flavors that give Dr Pepper its unique taste.