Soft Drinks: The origin and spread of soft drinks

Carbonated soft drinks have almost become an integral part of our modern life as they have slowly spread their fizzy influence worldwide with the growing web of globalization and aggressive marketing.

Today, you can procure them in the heart of New York City to the most remote villages of Africa. Very few products perhaps have covered such a large spectrum of human life as these drinks in the history of mankind.

The origin and spread of soft drinks

Indeed epidemiological studies have implicated the consumption of such carbonated soft drinks with several disease conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, dental decay, and physiological nutrient depletion.

However, there are hardly any comprehensive experimental studies that tend to establish a causal role of consumption of such carbonated soft drinks with these ailments making it imperative for the scientific verification of such claims in relevant physiological models.

The origin and spread of soft drinks

Soft drinks are a class of nonalcoholic beverages, usually but not necessarily carbonated, normally containing a natural or artificial sweetening agent, edible acids, natural or artificial flavors, and sometimes juice.

Natural flavors may be derived from fruits, nuts, berries, roots, herbs, and other plant sources. Thus far, coffee, tea, milk, cocoa, and undiluted fruit and vegetable juices are not usually considered soft drinks.

The term ‘soft drinks’ presumably originated for distinguishing flavored drinks from hard liquors, or spirits. Soft drinks were recommended as a substitute in the effort to change the hard-drinking habits of early Americans. Indeed, health concerns of modem consumers led to new’ categories of soft drinks emphasizing low-calorie count, low sodium content, no caffeine, and “all-natural” ingredients.

There are many varieties of soft drinks that have exsolved from time to time in different parts of the globe. Kava, made from roots of a bushy shrub, Piper methysticum, is consumed by the people of Fiji and other Pacific islands whereas in Cuba people enjoy a carbonated cane juice whose flavor comes from the unrefined syrup. In tropical areas, where diets frequently lack sufficient protein, soft drinks containing soybean flour have been marketed as a protein supplement.

In Egypt, carob or locust bean extract has been used for this purpose. In Brazil, a popular soft drink is made using maté as a base. The whey obtained during making buffalo cheese is carbonated and consumed as a soft drink in North /.frica while some eastern Europeans enjoy a drink prepared from fermented stale break Honey and orange juice is used in combination in a unique drink of Israel.

Thus different geographical areas have historically witnessed the use of diverse varieties of soft drinks although none of them really have been able to match the popularity gained by the modem day carbonated soft drinks, which have captured the world through the aggressive marketing of corporate giants like Coca Cola and Pepsi.

The first marketed soft drinks appeared in the 17th century as a mixture of water and lemon juice sweetened with honey. In 1676 the Compagnie de Limonadiers was formed in Paris and granted a monopoly for the sale of its products. Vendors carried tanks on their backs from which they dispensed cups of lemonade.
Carbonated beverages and waters were developed from European attempts in the 17th century to imitate the popular and naturally effervescent waters of famous springs, with a primary interest in their reputed therapeutic values. The effervescent feature of the ‘waters’ was recognized to be most important. Jan Baptist van Helmont (1577—1644) first used the term ‘gas’ in their reference to indicate the presence of carbon dioxide in such drinks. Gabriel Venel referred to limited water, probably confusing the gas with ordinary air. Thereafter Joseph Black named the gaseous constituent as fixed air.

Robert Boyle, the Anglo-Irish scientist who helped to found modern chemistry, published his Short Memoirs for the Natural Experimental History of Mineral Waters in 1685. It included sections on examining mineral springs, on the properties of the water, on its effects upon human bodies, and, lastly, “of the imitation of natural medicinal waters by chemical and other artificial ways”.

Numerous reports of experiments and investigations were included in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in the late 1700s, including the studies of Stephen Hales, Joseph Black, David Macbride, William Brownrigg, Henry Cavendish, Thomas Lane, and others. Joseph Priestley is nicknamed “the father of the soft drinks industry” for his experiments on gas obtained from the fermenting vats of a brewery.

In 1772 he demonstrated a small carbonating apparatus to the College of Physicians in London, suggesting that, with the aid of a pump, water might be more highly impregnated with fixed air. Later in 1773, Antoine Lavoisier in Paris made the same suggestion. In fact, Thomas Henry, an apothecary in Manchester, England, is considered as the first producer of carbonated water, which he made in 12-gallon barrels using an apparatus based on Priestley’s.

By about 1820, improvements in manufacturing processes allowed a much greater output, and bottled water became popular. Mineral salts arid flavors were added ginger in about 1820, lemon in the 1830s, tonic in 1858. In 1886 John Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia, invented Coca-Cola, the first carbonated cola drink.

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