Soft drinks, fizzy drinks, soda, or pop whatever you call it, we all have tasted it at some point in our life. In one way or other soft drinks have been around since the dawn of time having a long and weird history.
Origin of the name- Soft Drinks
Soft Drinks are called ‘Soft Drinks’ mainly because they don’t contain alcohol. The term is used to distinguish flavored drinks from hard liquor.
These drinks were originally used as a substitute to change the hard-drinking habit of early Americans.
Origin of Carbonated Water
The history of soft drinks can be traced back to the time when bathing in natural spring water was considered a healthy activity.
The minerals present in natural springs were said to have curative powers. It was soon discovered that the bubbles in natural mineral water were because of limestone depositing carbon dioxide in water that is rising to the surface.
The carbon dioxide gets dissolved due to the pressure. When the pressure is removed, carbon dioxide gets released as bubbles. This in turn causes the water to be bubbly and sparkly.
The idea that carbonated water contained medicinal properties was first suggested by Hippocrates in 400 BC. Unfortunately, the ancient Greeks didn’t know how to artificially produce carbonated water.
Timeline of Soft Drinks
In 1676, the first marketed non-carbonated soft drinks appeared. These were made only from water sweetened with lemon juice and honey.
In 1767, Joseph Priestley discovered how to carbonate water artificially. After 5 years of work, he perfected the process and submitted it to the Royal Society of London for which he was awarded the ‘Copley Medal’.
Mineral water was still considered a health drink at this time so the Royal Society prescribed Priestley’s carbonated water as a cure for Scurvy.
In 1771, Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman managed to create a similar process of carbonizing water using chalk and sulfuric acid.
After a few years, John Nooth improved Priestley’s design and invented a device that created carbonated water quickly and effectively.
Soon pharmacies started adding different herbs and chemicals to add flavors to these drinks. They used birch, ginger, dandelion, fruits extracts, and oftentimes chocolate powder to add flavor to carbonated water.
In 1783, Johann Jacob Schweppe developed a new device that was more effective and much better suited for mass production of carbonated mineral water than Nooth’s device.
In 1810, Simon and Rundle of Charleston, South Carolina were granted a patent for the mass production of ‘imitated mineral water’ or carbonated water.
In 1819, the first-ever Soda Fountain machine was patented by a physician and inventor named Samuel Fahnestock. The purpose of the soda fountain was to replicate the natural mineral water that bubbled up from Earth.
Carbonated water wasn’t much popular within the US until around 1832 when John Mathew invented a machine for creating it.
The equipment was quickly developed for the commercial manufacturing of soft drinks or carbonated water in the US.
In 1833, carbonated water was combined with lemon cordial to create lemonade. It was in 1835 that the bottled soda water started to be sold in the US.
Bottling Soft Drinks
In the 1840s, soft drinks became so popular that they were considered a regular part of people’s diet. At this time, soft drinks were always packed in glass bottles but they were super expensive. The bottles had to be returnable so they could be washed and reused.
As soft drinks continued growing in popularity, one huge problem faced by manufacturers was to seal the bottles. At that time, they didn’t have any good method to seal the glass bottles.
Inventors tried many methods to trap the carbonation inside the bottle without letting the gas leak and not pressurizing the bottles too much that they exploded but none worked.
It took years and dozens of designs before the Crown Cork Bottle Seal was invented by William Painter in 1892. This was the first cap to successfully trap the bubbles inside the bottles.
After World War II, there was rapid technological progress in the soft drinks industry. New bottles were invented that were lighter in weight and embossed. These bottles were both returnable and non-returnable.
Though the first-ever vending machine was invented by Hero Alexandria in the first century Greece but the first automatic soda bottle vending machine was implemented in the year 1920.
In 1957, aluminum cans were first introduced. In 1965, they were used to distribute soft drinks in vending machines.
In the year 1973, Nathaniel C. Wyeth invented the first polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles that were capable of withstanding the pressure of carbonated liquids.
These bottles were a cheap alternative to glass bottles making soft drinks even more portable and practical.
Today, the soft drink industry is one of the most popular and competitive on earth. Over 34 billion gallons of soft drinks are sold annually in over 200 countries.
In the UK, the industry has annual sales of more than 18 billion pounds and in the US the annual sales reached over 13 billion US dollars in January 2020.
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