Royal Crown Cola Company
A young pharmacist named Claud Hatcher developed RC as a bottled drink in 1905 to sell in his family's grocery store. After customers clamored for the drink, the family expanded into the soft-drink business, starting Union Bottling Works. Its best-selling product, Chero-Cola, helped the company grow so rapidly that by 1920 it had 700 franchise bottling plants. Known as the Chero-Cola Company, it faced a lawsuit from Cola-Cola, which insisted on exclusive rights to the word "cola." High legal bills and rising sugar prices forced the company to drop "cola" from its name in 1923.
When the market for Chero dropped off, the company discontinued the beverage, pushing forward
Mott was replaced by C. C. Colbert as president and chief executive officer in 1940. In that year, Nehi sales were ten times what they had been less than a decade before, RC products were available in nearly every state in the nation, and its advertisements appeared in such publications as the Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping. Actors Lucille Ball, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Ronald Reagan, Shirley Temple, and Loretta Young were among those endorsing RC as "Best by Taste Test."
The company continued to grow, and in 1954 it became the first beverage company to nationally distribute soft drinks in cans. Shortly thereafter, in 1959, RC became one of the first to introduce the sixteen-ounce bottle. The company produced the first low-calorie diet cola (Diet Rite), the first caffeine-free diet cola (RC 100), and the first diet cherry cola (Diet Cherry RC). Yet despite such innovations, Royal Crown products reportedly reached only 2.5 percent of the soft-drink market in the mid-1990s; Coke was the leader with about 43 percent, just ahead of Pepsi, which had about 31 percent of the market share. Today, none of the top-ten-selling soft drinks are Royal Crown products.
RC Cola was bought in October 2000 by the British company Cadbury Schweppes. Its U.S. operations continue under Cadbury Schweppes's largest beverage subsidiary, while its international operations are handled by Canada's Cott Corporation.
Mark Pendergrast, For God, Country, and Cola-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It, 2d ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2000).
Paige Bowers, Decatur
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