Lost fizzy drinks of the last fifty years
If you go to the supermarket today, you will find that most of the shelf space in the fizzy drinks section is taken up by Pepsico, the Coca Cola Company and own brand products. At one time, each region would also have its local favourites, or a home delivery service. Then came SodaStream and the relentless march of the multinational colas onto our local Morrisons/TESCO/ASDA/Mainstop/Fine Fare/Co-op/VG stores over the last thirty years. The joys of Category Management and greater demands by today’s chains (this time, mainly Morrisons, ASDA, TESCO and Sainsburys). Mr Alpine/Hague/A&A later didn’t get a look in.
Today, for our Not So Perfect Ten, we nark off the local dentist by recalling ten fizzy drinks of the last fifty or so years. From the local off licence, also known as The Multicoloured Lost Pop Shop:
- Weekly Pop Round drinks;
- TaB Clear;
- Nemesis Blackcurrant and Liquorice;
- Hubba Bubba Strawberry;
- Space Special;
- Rola Cola.
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1. Weekly Pop Round Drinks
Till recently, it was de rigeur for us to buy milk off the milkman instead of from our local supermarket. In addition to this, we also had mobile shops and weekly pop deliveries. In Greater Manchester, Alpine were among the main purveyors and had a nationwide presence. They were a bit like Express Dairies or Unigate, though with carbonated fizzy drinks instead of milk and yoghurt. Alpine’s deliveries were made using converted milk floats and vans, with a light khaki green livery. A depot in Stockport supplied most Tameside and Stockport people with Dandelion and Burdock, Ginger Beer, Raspberryade and so forth in Rinse and Return glass bottles. They continued till the late 1980s when diversification towards toys by new owners Pedigree led to its demise.
Prior to the early 1990s, Hyde also had a pop company: A&A Drinks. They too offered a range of flavoured fizzy drinks in Rinse and Return Bottles, though sold to local off-licences and newsagents. Their base was on Dukinfield Road, close to the M67 motorway and the Rose Hill – Guide Bridge railway line.
2. TaB Clear
TaB Clear was the Coca Cola Company’s attempt to gain a greater hold on the cola market in 1993. Instead of opting for another variety of its flagship drink (where they failed in 1985 with the New Coke), they opted for a clear cola. Enter TaB Clear. In Manchester, it was aggressively marketed at Piccadilly Gardens in cooperation with Key 103. People wearing shiny suits would dish out samples of the drink to unwitting commuters, alighting Little Gems and Bee Lines. By the end of 1993, it was shelved.
I liked TaB Clear, though not quite as much as Pepsi Max. It was good after a heavy session carrying 12 copies of the News of the World and five Mail on Sundays.
3. Alton Towers’ Nemesis drink
A limited edition drink was released by Coca Cola and Tussauds Amusements to promote Alton Towers’ new roller coaster ‘Nemesis’ in 1994. Named after the titular roller coaster, it was a blackcurrant and liquorice drink which gave you a purple tongue. Its ‘seething taste’ (quoting from the dark can) made for a good antidote to cola drinks. I can imagine blackcurrant and liquorice making for a good energy drink flavour.
4. Hubba Bubba Strawberry Bubble Gum drink
Hubba Bubba was, and remains a popular brand of bubble gum. Launched in the UK by J.N. Nicholls (the people behind Vimto), its strawberry flavour spawned a carbonated drink. Unlike your typical strawberry or cherry based fizzy drink, it had the sensation of being like a strawberry Dr Pepper. Yours truly in his teenage years, on trying this stuff wanted to blow bubbles with it!
The mid 1990s saw a rise in popularity of the energy drink. At one end there was Red Bull, with Purdey’s at the upper end of the market. In 1995, Schweppes launched a drink called Schizan, which used plant extracts and looked like a third rate lager. It had a taste of cold green tea with two sugars thrown in for good measure. Needless to say, it had a short shelf life, silently leaving our superstores at the end of the 1990s. A can of the defunct drink makes a cameo appearance in one scene of The Full Monty, prior to the Lunchbox’s audition.
6. Space Special, Sun Charm
About a few minutes before Paul Daniels’ Magic Show or The Late Late Breakfast Show dared to darken Chez Vall’s portable, our nearby off licence would be a port of call for fizzy drinks and chocolate. Along with the Ben Shaws Rinse and Return bottles, their Honley sister company Sun Charm offered fizzy drinks in glass half pint bottles, aimed predominantly at the children’s market. Along with its Dandelion and Burdock, they also had a cream soda known as Space Special.
In spite of the Star Wars or Close Encounters connotations, it was a green cream soda which had a slightly tart taste to Ben Shaws’ luminous green equivalent (which had a pronounced vanilla essence). I was probably taken in by the other worldness of the Yorkshire drink.
Several years before Bulmers decided to pull our plonkers with a Pear Cider (which among the real ale and real cider fanatics like yours truly here doesn’t exist; real ‘Pear Cider’ is actually called Perry, by the way), there was a non-alcoholic pear drink popular in the 1960s and 1970s known as Peardrax. There was also an apple equivalent known as Cydrax. Both were produced by Whiteways and left our shelves in 1988. For anything remotely similar to Cydrax, ASDA sells a similar drink called Cidona, which is seen with the store’s range of Irish produce. Lovers of Peardrax may find the alcoholic Kopparberg pear drink much to their liking.
If you have no first hand memories of this drink, there is no way you can claim to be a fully fledged child of the 1980s. At all.
Quatro’s name came about as the drink had a mix of four fruit flavours: pineapple, orange, passion fruit and grapefruit. Its mainly white cans had a prominent white ‘Q’ in the midst of a four squared logo, symbolising the colours of each ingredient, and prominent use of the Futura Stencil Bold typeface. There was also a bottled version. It was launched in 1982, with its adverts having Blade Runner style imagery. The drink also features in a street party scene for Charles and Diana’s Wedding in the Thames Television adaptation of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4. A year after that episode was aired (about October 1985), the drink was axed.
It had a weird pineapple taste, overpowered more by the grapefruit and orange. It’s a miracle they’ve sold any!
Popular in the 1970s, it was the Coca Cola Company’s response to the lurid coloured flavoured drinks off Mr Alpine. Whereas your friendly pop man had a patter convincing enough to flog you cherryade, Cresta did the same, minus camaraderie. Oh, and they had a dancing animated polar bear, invented by the same guy who brought us the Cadbury’s Smash mash aliens and Honey Monster (big deal). Its adverts had the animated bear singing and dancing, then making a daft noise after drinking some Cresta (available in strawberry, orange, lemon and lime.
It was the child appeal of the polar bear which meant pester power in 1970s supermarket aisles from ASDA to International Stores and VG. The fruit flavoured drinks were known for the amount of E numbers which got the average ’70s kid bouncing off the walls in Safeway. It was still available till the mid-1990s, though with a much reduced variety and less lurid drinks in its twilight years. In more recent times, it has made cameo appearances at discount stores such as B&M Bargains.
10. Rola Cola
“Why do mums buy crap pop?” – Peter Kay
For our final order from the Multicoloured Lost Pop Shop, we round off with a bargain basement cola immortalised by Bolton’s most successful comedian of modern times.
Next to Pepsi and Coca Cola, the average superstore would have a bargain basement pop nearby. For the most part of the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was often none other than Silver Spring’s Rola Cola. Often available in 3 litre bottles with a flat black bottom, it had the viscosity of treacle and the taste of cough medicine. Kwik Save and Iceland were often dependable sources.
Today, Rola Cola may be no more, but its spirit – and possibly its taste – lives on through superstore chains’ own Value branded colas. Yours truly had a similarly vile cola (possibly Rola Cola even) from a Co-op in Fleetwood, endured on a sweaty Balloon tram in 1996.
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Before I go…
Feel free to pour yourself a glass of some modern day totalitarian fizzy drink or (better still), something more esoteric like a Fentimans or an old school British classic like Barr’s Irn Bru. Feel free to comment on the ten stated herein or add some more to the list.
S.V., 10 August 2012.