So we have come back around to January again and now it’s time to make those New Year’s resolutions. I’m sure that at the top of several lists is losing weight. We naturally turn to no-calorie or low-calorie options to help us in our efforts. The soft drink industry has quite a few options for the calorie conscious, so what is the skinny on all those diet drinks?
Artificial sweeteners have been around since the early 1900s but it wasn’t until after World War II that their usage really took off. Artificial sweeteners have faced their ups and downs over the past 50 years since being approved for food use.
The soft drink industry was quick to pick up on the idea of dieting. They realized they had the opportunity to fill a new niche that had been created in the consumer market. In 1958, Royal Crown introduced Diet Rite, the first major nationally marketed diet soft drink. Consumers loved it. By 1964, more than 2 dozen diet drinks were fighting for their attention. Diet Rite, Tab, Dietetic Dr Pepper, and Patio Diet Cola led the field.
The Very First Diet
Introduced by The Royal Crown Company, Diet Rite was the first diet beverage developed nationally by the soft drink industry. Marketed for diabetics and people who could not consume large amounts of sugar, product testing began in 1958. The response was overwhelming!
By 1963 Diet Rite was the 4th best-selling soft drink in the country. Competitors began to flood the market, and by 1964, two dozen diet products emerged. Still, Diet Rite remained the most popular diet cola while Tab and Diet Pepsi closed in on the second spot.
Diet Rite was revolutionary; it had no calories, sodium, or caffeine, which made it perfect for RC’s more health-conscious soda consumers. In March 2000, Diet Rite became the first diet cola to be sweetened with SPLENDA brand sweetener. Today Diet Rite is available in cola, white grape, tangerine, black cherry, cherry cola, and red raspberry flavors.
RC continued its tradition of excellence by also producing the first caffeine-free diet cola known as RC 100 and the first diet cherry cola known as Diet Cherry RC. Since the spin-off of Diet Rite and its flavor line into a separate brand, RC has developed its own diet drink known as Diet RC.
The Slim Pepper
In 1963 a low calorie version of Dr Pepper was introduced as Dietetic Dr Pepper. Due to confusion about the name, sales were dragging. People believed the drink was meant for diabetics. Three years after the introduction of Dietetic Dr Pepper the drink was renamed Diet Dr Pepper. The name changed once more to Sugar Free Dr Pepper in 1971, but went back to Diet Dr Pepper in 1986 after research showed that increasingly health conscious Americans preferred drinks labeled diet. In 1987 the formula was changed to use 100% aspartame because consumers preferred the flavor. The formula was changed again in 1991 to make it taste more like regular Dr Pepper. Multiple varieties of Diet Dr Pepper have been produced through the years, including Cherry Vanilla, Berries and Cream, and Cherry Chocolate. It’s also available caffeine-free!
In 2011 Dr Pepper introduced a new low calorie version called Dr Pepper TEN. Developed to appeal to the male segment of the population who refused to drink Diet Dr Pepper because it was too girly, Dr Pepper eventually created TEN versions of 7UP, Sunkist, A&W, Canada Dry and RC.
President of The Seven-Up Company during the 1960s, Hamblett C. Grigg (son of the inventor of 7UP) originally resisted creating a a diet version of 7UP. Intense pressure from the marketplace soon changed his mind, and in 1963 a diet version of 7UP was developed. The company proposed several different names for the new beverage, such as Datt, Skip, and Dis, before finally deciding on Like. The name was a throwback to an early 7UP slogan “You Like It, It Likes You.” In 1970 the company changed the formula and renamed the beverage Diet 7UP. Similar to Diet Dr Pepper, the soda’s name was changed again in 1973 to Sugar Free 7UP, but switched back to the old name, Diet 7UP, in 1979. In 1987 a new flavor, Diet Cherry 7UP, was introduced. An alternate health-conscious option, 7UP Plus, was created in 2004. This low-carb beverage was sweetened with SPLENDA and contained 5% apple juice; the drink is no longer in production.
Big (Red) Developments
Introduced in 1976, Diet Big Red was Big Red Inc.’s first foray into the diet market. While originally sweetened with saccharin, the company switched to NutraSweet in 1985 citing customers’ preference for a better product with no aftertaste. After a round of taste tests, in 2003 Diet Big Red made another edit to the formula, switching sweeteners to sucralose. The sucralose version not only tasted the most like the original Big Red, it also improved its shelf life.
In 2011, the company noticed that Diet Big Red’s sales were declining at a time when people were becoming more conscious of their calorie intake. The Research and Development department of Big Red, Inc developed 30 different variations of the diet drink. Taste tests were run in Big Red’s core markets of San Antonio, Texas and Louisville, Kentucky. During the tests, one new version repeatedly scored the highest. In 2012 it was launched as the company’s new no-calorie option, Big Red ZERO. Sweetened with a blend of 3 different sweetners – sucralose, Ace-K, and aspartame, its new sleek black packaging has broad appeal to diet drinkers.
The Dr Pepper Museum is located at 300 S. 5th Street in downtown Waco. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM and Sunday from Noon until 5:00 PM, last ticket sold at 4:15. For more information, visit us on the web at drpeppermuseum.com. To purchase your own
Dr Pepper memorabilia, visit the Museum’s online gift shop.