In a world where Coca-Cola and Pepsi dominate the modern carbonated soda landscape, it may surprise you that there was a time that RC Cola gave both companies a real run for their money. RC Cola’s 100-year history is nothing to scoff at. In fact, the story of RC Cola actually started via a disagreement with none other than the big dog itself, Coca-Cola.
Humble Beginnings (1901-1920)
RC Cola first started with a disgruntled grocery store owner from Georgia. Claud A. Hatcher felt that Coca-Cola should have provided him with a discount for purchasing large amounts of Coca-Cola syrup from them. Unsurprisingly, Coca-Cola did not share the same sentiment, and Mr. Hatcher decided to develop his own soft drink formula.
Claud’s first invention with this endeavor was Royal Crown Ginger Ale, followed by Chero-Cola, a cherry-flavored cola. The success of both drinks would eventually persuade Hatcher and his family to transition full-time into soda manufacturing, named Chery Cola Company in 1910.
Turbulent Lawsuits to Major Comeback (1920- the 1950s’)
The success of Mr. Hatcher’s new business venture, specifically of Chero-Cola, did not fly well with Coca-Cola, During the early 1900s’, Coca-Cola began sue-ing a number of imitators under the grounds that the term ‘cola’ legally belongs to them. Despite Hatcher doing his best to counteract these lawsuits, Coca-Cola eventually won in 1927.
This forced Hatcher to rename his company from Chero-Cola to Nehi, a popular fruit drink from their line-up at the time. The company, now named Nehi, suffered low to moderate sales during this time, made worse by the Great Depression during the 1930s’. Claud Hatcher died in 1933, leaving the company under its sales director, H.R Motts.
It is under the leadership of Motts that the company would stage a major comeback. Ever the opportunist businessman, Motts focused company effort’s on their top-sellers. This includes bringing back Chery-Cola and renaming it Royal Crown Cola, in honor of the company’s first beverage.
With a healthy dose of advertising from Hollywood’s top stars such as Shirley Temple and Bob Hope, as well as public stage tests proclaiming it as the best, RC Cola would find itself right behind Coca-Cola and Pepsi as the nation’s favorite soda.
Diet Soda Success to Slow Decline of Popularity (1950’s to now)
Once Nehi was renamed to Royal Crown Company in 1959, the company would subsequently hit a jackpot with its introduction of Diet Sodas. With the public now being drawn to healthier alternatives, Diet Sodas became a huge hit. By the late 60s’, Royal Crown Company owned a total of 10 percent of the soda market, a huge part owing to the success of their Diet Sodas.
Unfortunately, studies made during the 1960s’ suggested that cyclamate, an ingredient prominently used in diet sodas, is hazardous to human health. Once a number of these studies began circulating through the public, sales of Diet Sodas plummeted. This adversely affected Royal Crown Companies, who at the time focused most of their effort on their diet line of sodas. This meant that the company now has to rely on its original RC Cola soda.
To sour things even further, Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been at war in terms of popularity throughout the ’70s and ’80s. While Royal Crown was focusing their advertising on their diet soda line, Coca-Cola and Pepsi continually focused their attention on their base sodas. This ensured that both Coca-Cola and Pepsi were always in the public consciousness while RC Cola slowly faded to obscurity.
Perhaps in an alternate universe, RC Cola would be at the top of the soda industry, standing upon the shoulders of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. As of 2021, RC Cola is still moderately popular in the United States, specifically in the South where many still attest to it being the best soda around!