Soda is a beverage that typically contains carbonated water, a sweetener and flavoring. It is also known as a “soft drink”--a term opposite of a “hard drink” which contains alcohol. To know the history of soda however, one may have to travel back to mineral water found in natural springs. Mineral water is said to have the power to cure many things and bathing in springs has long been considered a healthy activity. The process of how soda is made came from scientists who eventually discovered the natural bubbles in mineral water were caused by carbon dioxide. In 1767, English doctor Joseph Priestley figured out a way to infuse water with carbon dioxide. He visited his local brewery in Leeds and put distilled water above a beer vat, resulting in the first glass of drinkable man-made carbonated water. A few years later, Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman then invented an apparatus that could form carbonated water with chalk and sulfuric acid.


Carbonated beverages were introduced to the U.S. in 1832 when John Mathews made his own apparatus and mass-manufactured it. In the beginning, the soft drinks were actually used for healthy reasons. American pharmacies would have soda fountains or soda machines that contained mineral waters mixed with medicinal and flavorful herbs. The natural and artificial mineral waters would have ingredients such as fruit extracts, birch bark, dandelion or sarsaparilla. Consumers loved the healthy soft drinks so much, the demand generated the industry of bottled soft drinks so they could be consumed at home.


By the 1840s, the number of soda companies went from ten to fifty. Soft drink consumption became extremely popular in the U.S. and Americans would visit soda fountains everyday. Vending machines appeared by the 1920s, and by the end of the 20th century, canned sodas became a huge part of the market. Because soda fountains originated in Connecticut, the term “soda” is mainly used in the northeastern part of America. No one seems to know how the term spread to the west coast, but it has been speculated it was due to ice cream parlors in San Francisco that also sold root beer, ginger ale, and sarsaparilla. In contrast, Coca-Cola came from the south, so soft drinks in that region are referred to as “coke” whether they are Coca-Cola or not. The midwest seems to prefer an onomatopoeia, calling it “pop” for the sound it makes when opened.


The soda pop industry in the U.S. has hundreds of brands today, full of both classic and unique sodas. They can be found in retailers, restaurants, and soda pop shops across the country and around the world. The two “power brands” are Coca-Cola and Pepsi. These soft drink companies have managed to dominate the industry by innovating and advertising, reflecting consumers’ lifestyles in their marketing. In addition, they hold strong distribution networks and expand internationally. When times were hard, they kept their foundation by introducing new flavors and products. Coca-Cola has provided Fanta and Sprite, while Pepsi brought Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi.


Although many love these classic brands, their influence has also caused a rise in demand for craft sodas from smaller businesses. The appeal of craft sodas may derive from the idea of treating oneself. Since craft is made in smaller batches, ingredients are often natural and of higher quality. They typically come in glass bottles, with some packs containing as little as four sodas. (Not to mention, the retro feel makes for an easy trend!) Many shops still keep their old soda fountain pharmacy layout, and although some have converted their businesses to ice cream shops or diners, customers can still experience that nostalgic interior design. If you want to buy soda online or simply discover unique soda flavors, you can do so at our Specialty Sodas website. Whether you call it coke, soda or pop, you’ll be sure to find a brand that suits you.