Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, June 22, 2006


Page 15



Cadbury Schweppes Reigns Supreme Over Orange Soda Market




Orange Crush was once the top selling orange soda. Nesbitt’s wrested that distinction from it in the 1950s; Fanta grabbed it in the 1960s.

That much has already been said here.

Which product has the distinction now? Sunkist.

The name “Sunkist” has been used by a California orange growers cooperative since 1908. A theater chain in 1978 bought a license to use the name on orange soda, and started marketing the product nationally the next year. By 1981, Sunkist Orange was not only the best-selling orange soda, but one of the nation’s top 10 soft drinks.

Five years after that, Cadbury Schweppes, a British company, bought the license, and still makes the drink.

It’s distinctive among orange sodas in that it has caffeine added to it.

On the up side, it contains “natural flavors” (the amount of orange juice is not specified); on the down side, it’s sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and contains dyes.

Fanta Orange, its nearest competitor, is labeled “ARTIFICIALLY FLAVORED.” It, like Sunkist and just about any other orange soda, contains HFCS and dyes.

Among health concerns about HFCS is that it messes up metabolism, interferes with the functioning of the heart, promotes irritable bowel syndrome, upsets magnesium balance, and accelerates aging. The dyes, from coal tar or petroleum, are harmless to most people but adversely affect some, particularly those with allergies.

Cadbury Schweppes, through its U.S. subsidiary Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., manufactures a large array of once-competing brands. In the area of orange sodas, it produces not only Sunkist, but Orange Crush (and other Crush flavors), Orangina, Stewart’s Orange ’N Cream (and the rest of the Stewart’s line), as well as the various non-carbonated Snapple drinks, including Snapple Orangeade.

So, of the orange drinks you see next to each other on grocery store shelves, all of them except Fanta, owned by the Coca-Cola Company, are products of the same magacorp. The once popular Nesbitt’s is found locally only at Galco’s Soda Pop Stop in Highland Park.

Digressing, Cadbury Schweppes also has a hold on other types of soft drinks. As noted in earlier columns on ginger ale, all three major brands of that beverage—Canada Dry, Schweppes, and Vernors—are owned by Cadbury Schweppes. So are A&W Root Beer, Hires Root Beer, and IBC Root Beer. (Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer, the top brand when I was a youngster, is now a “retro” brand owned by Monarch Beverage Company, Inc., which makes Moxie.)

Of the Cadbury Schweppes orange sodas, Orange Crush is the oldest, formulated in Los Angeles in 1915. Initially deriving orange flavor from the oil of the orange skin, it soon contained orange juice. Its ingredients are now degraded, being similar to those in Sunkist.

Stewart’s Orange ’N Cream is the newest. It was introduced in 1995. The ingredients include orange juice concentrate. Sorbitol, an artificial sweetener, is used. Too much of that stuff, it’s been found, can cause diarrhea and abdominal pain—and, more seriously, cell damage.

Orangina has these ingredients: “Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup And/Or Sugar, Orange Juice Concentrate, Pure Orange Pulp, Tangerine Juice Concentrate, Natural Orange Flavor.” It’s 12 percent juice and 2 percent pulp.

Snapple products are “soft drinks” but, not being carbonated, aren’t soda pops. Except for the diet drinks, they contain no dyes, preservatives, or phony flavoring.

The orange soda brands I remember from my childhood, in addition to Nesbitt’s, are Par-T-Pak and Nehi. Both were owned by the Nehi Corporation, later re-named Royal Crown Cola Company after one of its products.

Par-T-Pak is a defunct brand. Nehi Orange still exists but is not widely sold. (You can find it at the store in Highland Park.)

There’s hardly an incentive for the owner of the Nehi brand to promote it given the number of other orange soda brands it holds. Yes, Nehi, too, is owned by Cadbury Schweppes. The acquisition came in 2000 as part of a purchase from Triarc Companies Inc. of the “Snapple Beverage Group,” including Snapple, Stewart’s, and Royal Crown.

My all-time favorite orange soda is one also owned by Cadbury Schweppes but not now marketed in the United States. It used to be, however, in the mid-1960s. It’s Schweppes Bitter Orange, made from the whole orange, skin and all, with pieces of skin floating in the drink. Though primarily intended as a mixer, it was—in the words of a 1967 magazine ad—“ a staunch refresher when taken alone.”

That ad featured the bearded Commander Whitehead on horseback. The heading was: “The Schweppesman Rides Again—This Time With Bitter Orange.” The text began:

“Commander Whitehead first established a beachhead with Schweppes Tonic. He then battered your barricades with Schweppes Bitter Lemon. Now he advances upon you with Schweppes Bitter Orange.”


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