Food and beverage sciences are critically important and rapidly growing segments of the world economy. Here’s a look at one innovator in that field, and one quirky innovation that rose to prominence, and remains unique to this day.  

The History of Dr Pepper  

Dr. Charles Alderton was a pharmacist in the mid-1880’s. After studying in England and at the University of Texas, he took a job compounding medicines at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, Texas. 

The drug store had a soda fountain. People gathered there to escape the heat, socialize, and experience such novelties as cold drinks, carbonated water, and ice cream. There were no mass-produced soft drinks at that time. Instead, tasty treats were made to order, using ingredients like carbonated water, simple syrup, fruit concentrates and syrups, spices, coffee, tea, eggs, nuts, cream, milk, ice cream, and shaved ice. 

When he wasn’t busy mixing up medicines, Alderton liked to work at the soda fountain. One reason may have been a wish to encourage people to ‘take their medicine’. Adding some of the sweet ingredients from the soda fountain to medicinal compounds made the mixture more appealing. 

Alderton had other reasons to spend time behind the soda counter. He noticed that customers were weary of the usual soda flavorings, so he began to experiment with new combinations. Also, he liked the smell of Morrisons Old Corner Drug Store, with the mingled scents of fruit syrups and whatever else was in the air. He began trying to create a syrup flavor that would capture that smell. 

In 1885, he came up with a syrup he liked. It was compounded of 23 secret ingredients. He offered his employer, Wade Morrison, a taste. Morrison liked it too, and soon put it on the menu at the soda fountain. It quickly became popular. People began asking for it, calling it a “Waco”. Soon, the flavor was named Dr Pepper. The invention of Dr Pepper pre-dates Coca Cola by one year.

Requests for the new flavor spread fast. Soon, Morrison’s was selling the syrup to other drug stores and soda fountains in the area. Demand exceeded supply: the little drug store couldn’t keep up. They had to expand production, but Charles Alderton had no interest in developing his invention. He suggested that his employer Mr. Morrison and a young beverage chemist named Robert Lazenby go ahead with expansion. Morrison & Lazenby established the Artesian Manufacturing. & Bottling Co. They made Dr Pepper syrup on one floor, and bottled Dr Pepper on another. The company grew.

Dr Pepper was introduced to the wider public at the 1904 Worlds Fair Exposition at St. Louis, Missouri. The Exposition was visited by about 20 million people. They had the chance to experience several novel foods, such as ice cream in cones, hamburgers and franks on buns, and Dr Pepper – all available for the first time.

The company built its first bottling plant in Waco, opened in 1906. Through a succession of distribution agreements, legal actions, new product developments, iconic advertisements, and mergers, Dr Pepper eventually became a product known all over the world.

Dr Pepper Today

In the over 130 years since it was invented, the secret formula devised by Alderton has been adapted to many varieties of Dr Pepper. Eight of those varieties, along with the original recipe, have stood the test of time and are still available. Alderton’s 23 secret ingredient creation has also been used in such diverse products as jelly beans, lip balm, bubble gum, dessert toppings, BBQ sauce, marinades, candies, and baked beans.

As he experimented at the soda fountain in Waco, Charles Alderton could hardly have imagined the food and beverage industry of today. He was a precursor of the flavorists, R&D specialists, researchers and analysts that came to prominence in the food industry of the 21st century. 

The world food supply faces challenging demands over the next 50 years, including a human population topping 9 billion people, climate change, scarcer resources, and food security and safety. Efficient and innovative ways to grow, preserve, distribute, and prepare traditional foods must be created; as well as new foods from novel sources, new ways to use resources and handle waste, new distribution technologies, and quality contro,l.

This is an exciting time to be in this industry. If, like Charles Alderton, you have an interest in food & beverages and a passion for innovation, contact Grapefrute today

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