Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The House of Lazier Part One - Sun Drop: The Evolution of a Legend

With the new push of Sun Drop toward resurfacing as a national brand, there is much confusion as to its origins. Many would have you believe that it is a Mountain Dew imitator created, like so many others, to capture some of the glory of Mountain Dew’s success in the late 1960’s. Some think that it has always been the citrus lemon flavor that it is today.  The reality is that the early history of this brand is shrouded in the mists of time, and that the brand has evolved from its original beginnings into the brand, and formula, we know today.

The story begins with the J. F. Lazier Company, sellers of flavor extracts and bottling equipment, who were based in St. Louis, Missouri. The Lazier Company created an orange extract in 1929 which they would name Sun Drop, and the trademark would be registered on April 15, 1930. The selling point for this new extract was to offer a way for bottlers to attempt to regain the orange drink business that was being lost to the dairies. Sun Drop came in two types, Number One was the “Dairy Type” for making a non-carbonated orange drink, Number Two was the “Regular Bottler Type” which would be used for a carbonated drink. The concentrate could be used under the bottler’s own name, or as Sun Drop Orangeade with their complete line of labels, caps, and advertising.

By 1940 there were actually three Sun Drop flavors, Sun Drop Orangeade, Sun Drop Punch and Sun Drop Lemonade, with Sun Drop Lemonade being the most popular. Sun Drop Lemonade had been introduced in 1937, and was claimed to be the “first natural pure lemonade ever made”. By the end of the 1940’s the other two flavors seem to have been dropped from the brand leaving only Sun Drop Lemonade. The orange flavor had been taken over in popularity by another Lazier Company brand, Mil-Kay. Mil-Kay was so popular that the company had renamed itself the Mil-Kay Orange Corporation.

In 1952 Charles E. Lazier the president of the company decided to reformulate the Sun Drop brand. What he created was the first “citrus cola type” drink which he named Sun Drop, sometimes called Golden Girl Cola. Golden Girl was a name that the Lazier Company had trademarked on April 21, 1928 for use “particularly for orange beverage”. At first glance one would think that Sun Drop was created as a replacement for the Golden Girl brand; however, the company renewed the Golden Girl trademark in 1948. The resurgence of the name in association with the newly reformulated Sun Drop leaves one wondering what the relation between Golden Girl and Sun Drop actually is. The only clue I have found so far is in the form of a Sun Drop Orange Extract letterhead from around 1930, a girl is pictured in the corner of the title graphic holding oranges in her apron, is this Golden Girl? Was she actually a mascot for the early Sun Drop brand?

As I alluded to at the beginning of this article, many think that Sun Drop is an imitator of Mountain Dew. The reality of the situation is that it is more likely that Mountain Dew was created to imitate Sun Drop. Mountain Dew’s modern formula wasn’t created until sometime between 1960 and 1962, depending upon who’s story you believe, which is eight to ten years later than Sun Drop. The first franchise for Mountain Dew, Tri-City Beverage, was bottling the new Sun Drop formula in 1953. Legend states that Bill Bridgeforth, created the modern Mountain Dew formula by filling their Mountain Dew bottles with their own Tri-City Lemonade to eliminate the duplicate lemon drinks in their lineup around 1960. This included replacing Sun Drop.

The newly reformulated Sun Drop/Golden Girl Cola was off to a good start and doing well enough for Charles Lazier to decide to do the same thing with Mil-Kay, calling it Mil-Kay Orange Cola. By 1956 the formula was selling so well that the company renamed themselves the Sun Drop Sales Corporation of America. Sun Drop / Golden Girl Cola sold quite well into the 1970’s; however, as we progressed into modern day the brand’s area of availability had shrunk quite a bit, and until recently was usually only available in the South Eastern part of the United States. As I stated at the beginning the owners of the Sun Drop brand recently started a huge push of their product nationwide, and actively going after their direct competition, Mountain Dew and Mello Yello. I say good luck to them as a brand that has been around as long as Sun Drop deserves to survive and thrive.

The registration certificate for the original Sun Drop

A letterhead for Sun Drop Orange Concentrate, is that an early version of the Golden Girl in the corner?
Early Sun Drop Lemon Drink

The registration certificate for Golden Girl

A paper labeled Sun Drop Lemonade

Sun Drop Lemonade Cap

The registration certificate for the Sun Drop Lemonade logo

A variation of the Sun Drop Lemonade cap

A 10oz Sun Drop Fruit Drinks bottle which lists Sun Drop Orange, Lemonade, and Punch as flavors

12oz Sun Drop Lemonade bottle same design as the 10oz above, but dedicated to the Lemonade flavor

7oz Sun Drop bottle design introduced with its reformulation in 1953
Sun Drop mixing glass

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Evolution of Double Cola

Charles D. Little and Joe S. Foster created their new grape soda, Good Grape, in 1922, and at the same time created The Good Grape Company which was based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The new brand needed a distinguishing bottle to set it apart from the other deco bottles that were hitting the selves at the same time. After an initial design which wasn’t really all that interesting, even with embossed grapes added to the design, they came up with the bottle that is best remembered as the iconic bottle for the brand. This design was a straight side design with vertical pillars running from the base to the neck with grape shaped indentions along the pillars at intervals, and on the shoulder the name embossed in an indented scroll. The Good Grape bottles usually came in a 6oz and a tougher to find 8oz bottle. 
The drink originally hit the market with the tagline “Fruit of the Vine” and a mascot in the form of Cap’n Grapejack which was a kid in a pirate outfit, both seemed to disappear very quickly. The “Fruit of the Vine” tagline and the Good Grape name itself came under the scrutiny of the Federal Trade Commission who forced the company to drop the tagline, but allowed them to keep the Good Grape name, but the brand would eventually evolve into the Double Grape brand by 1927.
The Good Grape Company introduced the Jumbo Brand Quality Sugar Beverages line, Jumbo Beverages for short, which also got its own unique deco bottle whose most eye catching feature is the embossed elephant in the middle of the bottle.  In 1924 the company created the Mar-vel Cola brand which featured its own unique 6 1/2oz bottle in the form of two barrels stacked on top of each other with “Mar-Vel its Marvelous” embossed on it. After the brand didn’t take off, the bottle design was re-purposed by changing the mold to create the early Double Grape bottle which had the brand name embossed in the area where the barrels connected in the middle.
According to an affidavit given by Charles Little in 1948, the name of the company is changed on to the Seminole Fruit Flavor Company on March 8th, 1928, and changed again on January 27th, 1932 to the Seminole Flavor Company. They introduced Double Orange in 1928, and Double Lemon in 1929, from all I can gather this early Double line were all bottled in the new revised version of the Mar-vel double barrel, which grew to 7 1/2oz and gained an orange peel effect on the bottle, and was embossed with Double Strength Sugar Beverage. For their other brand, which they named Brandy wine Sugar Beverage, they used the new bottle with a smooth texture, and in green glass. Of course in 1929 Double Orange and Brandy wine seem to be the flavors that the company is pushing. They even created a 26 passenger White brand advertising bus equipped with a calliope which with two 2-ton trucks, and Chief Little Bear “a Full Blooded Seminole Indian Chief”, apparently would visit the towns that housed one of their franchises from Chattanooga to Detroit in order to advertise these two drinks.
In 1934 the Seminole Flavor Company introduced to the public their second attempt at a cola with the long winded name of Jumbo A Super Cola. This bottle is a modified version of the Mar-vel bottle with a much larger upper portion which was modified to allow this bottle to incorporate the newly perfected ACL (Applied Color Label) process, and to be the first soda bottle to do so. The ACL was the word “Jumbo” in an arch over “A Super Cola” in Yellow. This new cola with the long winded name would be reformulated, doubled in size to 12oz, and renamed Double Cola in 1935, which of course would become the hit brand which would propel the company onto the national scene.
The Double Strength line would become the Double Line in the late 1930’s, and the company would move from deco bottles to ACL bottles for all their brands. The Double Cola Company is still in existence and is starting to expand their distribution area after having lost a lot of their territory in the 1980’s and 1990’s. They continue to make Double Cola, Ski (a citrus soda they created in the 1950’s), the Jumbo Beverages line, Diet Double Cola, and they have also picked up another Tennessee based brand named Chaser. They recently signed a deal to distribute the brand in Cracker Barrel restaurants. According to the company’s website Jumbo Grape is the original Good Grape formula, and Jumbo Orange is the original Double Orange formula. For more information on Double Cola check out their website at http://www.double-cola.com/ or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DrinkDoubleCola

This is the earliest design for the Good Grape bottle that I have found. While the bottle itself is the same as the later version, the mid body label just didn't cut it.

Of course the reworking of the label to the scroll design was a stroke of genius. This Good Grape design is among my favorite deco bottles.

This is the bottle for the original Jumbo Beverage line. The company still uses the elephant mascot for the brand today.

"Mar-Vel it's Marvelous" thus states the bottle that was created for the company's first cola Mar-Vel Cola.

After they stopped bottling Mar-Vel Cola the bottle molds were modified for use of their newly renamed Double Grape. You can even see where they pinged out the original embossing with a hammer on the mold.

A new company name lead to many changes including new flavors including Brandy wine.
This is a Brandy Wine bottle cap.

The Double Strength line was also created from the Double Grape concept. It is very possible that the Double name was derived from their use of the Double Barrel design they used for their bottles.

This is the July 25, 1929 announcing the arrival of the coming of the Double Orange / Brandy Wine bus to Elizabethton, Tennessee which included a "big parade".

This of course is the direct ancestor of Double Cola, introduced in 1933 and using the first ACL (applied color label) found on a commercial soda bottle. Obviously inspired by the success of Pepsi-Cola's 12oz for a nickel strategy, the company would move this formula to a 12oz bottle, and Double Cola was born in the mid-1930's.
Jumbo A Super Cola unused bottle cap.

Two coupons for Jumbo A Super Cola, and Double Orange and Brandywine.
6oz Double Cola dated 1936

This 12oz Double Cola is from Pocahontas, VA and dated 1939