Authors: Tristan Donovan
Copyright Â© 2014 by Tristan Donovan
All rights reserved
Published by Chicago Review Press Incorporated
814 North Franklin Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Fizz : how soda shook up the world / Tristan Donovan.
Â Â Â Â Â Â pages cm
Summary: “This social, cultural, and culinary history charts soda's remarkable, world-changing journey from awe-inspiring natural mystery to ubiquity. Off-the-wall and off beat stories abound, including how quack medicine peddlers spawned some of the world's biggest brands, how fizzy pop cashed in on Prohibition, how soda helped presidents reach the White House, and even how Pepsi influenced Apple's marketing of the iPod. This history of carbonated drinks follows a seemingly simple everyday refreshment as it zinged and pinged over society's taste buds and, in doing so, changed the world”â Provided by publisher.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-61374-722-3 (pbk.)
1. Soft drinksâHistory. 2. Carbonated beveragesâHistory. I. Title.
Cover design: Rebecca Lown
Interior design: Jonathan Hahn
Printed in the United States of America
5 4 3 2 1
To the Stars
It was 1984, the height of the Cola War. Pepsi was riding high on the back of the Pepsi Challenge and an endorsement from Michael Jackson, the world's biggest star. After more than 60 years of trying to beat Coca-Cola, victory was in sight. But the Atlanta soda giant still had a trick up its sleeve to use against its fast-growing Yankee rival: it would take soda into outer space.
Coca-Cola announced to the world that NASA would take its world-famous cola into orbit when the
space shuttle blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in July 1985. “As more people explore outer space, it was our judgment that it would be a darn shame if people on these long voyages wouldn't have the opportunity to have a moment of refreshment with Coca-Cola,” Coke president Don Keough informed USA
After all, he could have added, when you've conquered the world, the only direction is up.
Coca-Cola spent a fortune on its space mission, assigning a team of its finest engineers to build a unique soda can capable of dispensing its fizzy nectar to astronauts as they floated in zero gravity. It had taken months to develop and been tested to destruction on high-altitude flights aboard NASA's “Vomit Comet,” the Boeing KC-135 that the space agency would fly on a parabolic flight path so astronauts could train in a near weightless environment.
The tough steel can featured an adhesive fastener strip so that it could be attached to the spacecraft walls to stop it from floating around. It had a
special paint that would not melt in intense heat or flake in extreme cold (in which case it could float off and damage the shuttle's circuits). There was a safety lock to stop the liquid from escaping and a spout, activated by a plunger, from which Coca-Cola could be squirted down the throats of space travelers.
At the offices of Pepsi in Purchase, New York, the news that its archrival was to be first into space came as a shock. Bob McGarrah, the equipment development manager at Pepsi when Coca-Cola made its announcement, remembers the reaction: “What! Coke's going to space and we're not?” There might not have been moon bases or Martians out there to buy their fizzy drinks but this was the Cola War and the contest to be crowned soda king was on a knife edge. Pepsi couldn't let Coca-Cola be the first into space. No way. If Coke was going where no soda had gone before, Pepsi was coming too.
Roger Enrico, the president of Pepsi-Cola, ordered his staff to gatecrash Coke's orbital party. Pepsi got in touch with NASA and pointed out to the agency that “PepsiCo is strongly identified with the Republican Party and the support of President Reagan and his administration.” In short, put us on that shuttle or expect trouble in Washington. What could NASA say except “OK”?
Having gotten their ticket on the same shuttle flight as Coca-Cola, Pepsi now needed a space can of its own that could pass NASA's rigorous tests. Pepsi assembled its best engineers and told them to make a space can. Fast. One of those on the team was McGarrah: “In something like 14 weeks, a really compressed period of time, we had to come up with a package that could go up in a spaceship. Everything that's going to go onto that spaceship has to be tested for things like flammability, ability to withstand a vacuum, and on and on and on. You have to create the product and go through this elaborate testing process out in New Mexico to get approval.”
Working out of Pepsi's research facility in Valhalla, New York, and with support from spray technology specialists Enviro-Spray, the team raced against the clock to build the kind of space-worthy can that Coca-Cola had spent months developing. “One of the team, Scott Gillesby, was the main
courier to the testing facility and he would fly back and forth to the testing grounds in New Mexico,” McGarrah recalls. “He was literally in the air more than he was on the ground; flying out to the test site and back. He had to keep coming back and forth because a lot of the time the can failed.”
After several weeks of ferrying prototypes back and forth, Pepsi had their can. Essentially a repurposed aerosol canister, Pepsi's steel space can contained small plastic pouches that would mix citric acid and sodium bicarbonate when the spray nozzle was pressed down. The acid and baking soda would react to produce carbon dioxide gas that would cause the pouches to expand, increasing the pressure inside the can and forcing the cola out through the nozzle. On July 8, 1985, with just four days to go before takeoff, NASA gave Pepsi permission to fly. Coke's hopes of being the first soda in space were over. As takeoff approached, the seven astronauts found themselves besieged with questions from journalists wanting the scoop on the Cola Space War. “We're not up there to run a taste test between the two,” exasperated astronaut Colonel Gordon Fullerton told reporters.
The orbital Pepsi Challenge didn't take off quite as planned. At T minus 3 seconds the shuttle launch was canceled and delayed until July 29 when, finally, the world's favorite sodas made the journey into space. Back on Earth, Pepsi marked the day with newspaper ads declaring the venture “one giant sip for mankind.” Once in space the astronauts tested out the cans, blowing wobbly spherical globules of zero-gravity cola around the ship before gulping them down. And when they returned to Earth the assembled press couldn't wait to find out who had won the outer space taste test. Neither, replied the astronauts. The shuttle didn't have a refrigerator, the crew explained, and warm soda just doesn't cut it.
Even worse were the zero-gravity burps from drinking carbonated drinks in space. “On Earth, that's not such a big deal, but in microgravity it's just gross,” Vickie Kloeris, the food systems manager at NASA, reported on the space agency's website in 2001. “Because there is no gravity, the contents of your stomach float and tend to stay at the top of your stomach, under the rib cage and close to the valve at the top of your stomach. Because this valve isn't a complete closure (just a muscle that works with gravity), if you burp, it becomes a wet burp from the contents in your stomach.” Not
that Pepsi cared. “Was Coke's can better? Probably,” says McGarrah. “But Coke was there and we were there too.”
That either of them were there was more surprising. After all Coca-Cola and Pepsi were little more than fizzy flavored water at heart. Yet here they were traveling to space and back at the cost of millions for a publicity stunt that captivated a nation, saw the world's leading space agency told it would have to deal with the Oval Office if it didn't put Pepsi on the flight, and ended with astronauts complaining that their space cola wasn't cold enough. That soda had become this important was somehow even more miraculous than the ability to send people into space.
But humanity has always been strangely mesmerized by fizzing water. For people living in ancient times, naturally carbonated spring waters with their strange, unexplained bubbles must have seemed magical. What were they? Many civilizations concluded that these waters had healing powers or could give people strength. Others speculated that these springs were home to dangerous supernatural beings. These beliefs endured for centuries.
Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician often regarded as the father of modern medicine, promoted the idea that mineral waters could cure disease in 400
As the Romans expanded their empire across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, they sought out natural springs in the lands they conquered, convinced that these special waters could rid them of gallstones and infections. In 216
when the great Carthaginian general Hannibal crossed the Pyrenees on his way to fight in Italy, he reportedly paused his forty-six thousand troops and thirty-seven war elephants at the fizzing waters of Les Bouillens near VergÃ¨ze, France, before marching on to victory against the Romans. Today the spring where Hannibal's army rested provides the world with Perrier bottled water.
The obsession continued into the Dark Ages. In pre-Christian Scotland brides and grooms would marry while standing deep in the bubbling waters of the Marriage Well, near the banks of the River Clyde, in the belief that its effervescent waters would bless their union. At the same time, more than two thousand miles to the east, the people of Borjomi in the Caucasus nation of Georgia built stone bathtubs so that they could bathe in the area's carbonated spring water.
But even as people gathered around these waters, the mystery of why the water bubbled remained. So people began trying to figure out what created them, hoping that if they could understand that, they could recreate the phenomenon. The search for the secret of effervescence would last for centuries. In 1340 the Italian physician Giacomo de Dondi studied the hot springs of Abano Terme, hoping to uncover what gave its waters their curative power. After evaporating the water and examining the residue left behind by sight, smell, and taste, de Dondi concluded that the residue was some kind of mineral salt, a finding he believed proved that this spring's water was indeed of medicinal value.