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Can you imagine walking up to a store clerk and asking for a "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda?" Well, apparently no one else could imagine doing it either because the name of this soda was quickly changed to 7UP. Charles Leiper Grigg of the Howdy Corporation invented 7UP, or Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda, in October of 1929. The name didn't go over very well, and was changed to 7Up Lithiated Lemon Soda, and then to just 7UP in 1936. Where did the name 7Up come from? Nobody knows, but here are a couple of theories:
Just in case you where wondering, 7UP did contain Lithium, a light-weight medal, now used in treating mental illness (and making long lasting batteries). The lithium was removed from 7UP over 50 years ago, but at the time it appeared in several companies lemon-lime sodas. When soft drinks were first invented they often had minerals added that were found in natural springs and springs with lithium were very popular.
Initially 7UP was available in the St.Louis area, but Mr. Grigg and the Howdy Corp. worked aggressively to make 7UP a national drink. This was no easy feat, as there were no large supermarket chains, but just little Mom & Pop markets that had to be convinced on an individual basis to carry 7UP. Now remember, 7UP was not only trying to become a successful nationwide soft drink, but it was also trying to do this during the Great Depression. One of the techniques Mr. Grigg used to help him accomplish his goal of making 7UP successful, was to sell his product to the underground speakeasies. Like dry ginger ale, 7UP was a very popular mixer. In fact, once prohibition was repealed, Mr. Grigg started openly marketing his soda as a mixer. By the end of the 1930's, Mr. Grigg had made 7UP one of the nations most popular sodas.
World War II also helped 7UP grow even further. Most soft drink companies were struggling to survive during the war because sugar rations greatly reduced the amount of product that they could produce. 7UP on the other hand, required less sugar for their soft drink than other companies, and this gave them a huge advantage. 7UP was also pretty smart as they used their new found profits to start a national advertising campaign. In the past advertising campaigns had been directed to the local communities. Now, 7UP started advertising in national magazines such as Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and Collier's. By the end of the War, 7 UP was the third most popular soft drink in the country.
It was not long before 7 UP was available at the soda fountain, and in the new vending machines. They also started sponsoring radio and television programs. In 1967, the Seven Up Company went public, and this was also the same year that they began airing their famous Uncola commercials -- a soda glass was filled with 7 UP, turned upside down, and then drank. Throughout the seventies, 7 UP would continue to promote itself as the uncola. My earliest memories of 7 UP are of a commercial set on a tropical island with a black man explaining the secret of 7 UP is the "Uncola Nut," and he did this in a voice husky enough to pull a sled (HaHaHa!). By the way, the black man was the great actor Geoffrey Holder, not James Earl Jones -- and this commercial has also been picked as one of the "50 best commercials of all time" by Advertising Age.
7 UP released "Like," a diet lemon-lime drink, in 1963 (seven years later it was reformulated and renamed Diet 7 UP). In 1987 they released Cherry 7 UP and Diet 7 UP. They were one of the first U.S. soft drink companies (maybe the first?) to use one-liter bottles, and they accompanied the bottles with the slogan "Follow the Liter," and it is now obvious that all the other soft drink companies did just that. In 1987, they also gave us "Spot," the ultra-cool animated character, who I often happen to see on personal Web pages that are devoted to Coca-Cola (I still haven't been able to figure that one out).
The biggest change to 7up, since they removed the lithium, is happening right now. Once the third most popular soft drink in the nation, 7up has fallen in the standings over the last few years and had even fallen behind Sprite (last year they were ranked 8th, and Sprite was 4th). Lemon and limes provide 7up with its flavor -- no secret formula here. In an effort to get 7up back to the top again, the company has changed the way the lemon and lime flavor is extracted from the fruit. A new modern technique is now being employed that produces a very crisp, clear refreshing taste. They didn't change the sweetness or the carbonation -- they just intensified the flavor (in my opinion a very acceptable change).
In 1988, the Dr Pepper Company merged with the Seven Up Company. In 1995 the Dr Pepper/7up company was bought by Cabury Schweppes. They are now the third-largest soft drink company in the world.