The Tragic History of RC Cola

Royal Crown Cola, or RC, is over eighty years old. It was an innovative brand that paired well with deep-dish pizza in Chicago and Moon Pies in the South. And RC Cola was still eclipsed by both Coca Cola and Pepsi. Yeah, it’s still around, yet the brand doesn’t spend all that much on promotion, relatively, and it stays out of the “cola wars.”

But the number of RC drinkers could have been much, much higher. In an alternate—and completely plausible—universe, it would have given Coke and Pepsi a run for their money. At one point, it did. Believe it or not, Royal Crown Cola used to be one of the most innovative companies in the beverage industry. It came out with the first canned soda, the first caffeine-free soda, and the first 16-ounce soda. It was the first to take diet cola mainstream, and the first to stage nationwide taste tests.

Given its long and pioneering history, RC deserved to be more than the middling soda brand it is today. In an industry that lives and dies by marketing, RC didn’t do nearly enough. But its failure wasn’t just due to lack of initiative. It was also a case of supremely bad luck, bad judgment, and a fateful ingredient known as cyclamate.

Baby Boomers might remember what happened next, but you probably don’t know all the details. Today RC Cola and its sister brands like Nehi and Diet Rite are still sold, although you may have to look for them. Read about the rise and spectacular fall of RC Cola at mental_floss.

(Image credit:Flickr user pscc.ets)

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RC Cola was my #1 cola of choice for years. I made the switch to Diet Rite when I was having weight issues. But I'm in Maine, which I often refer to as "the end of the food chain." Diet Rite disappeared from the shelves a year or so ago (as has Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter).

I remember well the cyclamates scare from the 60s. My absolute favorite 'pop' from back then - Gatorade. My parents stopped that cold turkey. Done. If I remember correctly, Gatorade died too and was off the shelf for a number of years.
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