Losing The Fizz: What’s next for the carbonated beverage industry?

For the first time in decades, water consumption has eclipsed that of carbonated beverages in key markets around the world, including the US. Big soda manufacturers, such as Coke and Pepsi, must be asking themselves: what’s next for the carbonated beverage industry?

Soft drinks soon outgrew their origins in the medical world and became a widely consumed beverage, available cheaply for the masses. By the 1840s there were more than fifty soft drink manufacturers – an increase from just ten in the previous decade. For the Great Exhibition of 1851, Schweppes was designated the official drink supplier and sold over a million bottles of lemonade, ginger beer, Seltzer water and soda-water. There was a Schweppes soda water fountain, situated directly at the entrance to the exhibition.

Mixer drinks became popular in the second half of the century. Tonic water was originally quinine added to water as a prophylactic against malaria and was consumed by British officials stationed in the tropical areas of South Asia and Africa. As the quinine powder was so bitter people began mixing the powder with soda and sugar, and a basic tonic water was created. The first commercial tonic water was produced in 1858. The mixed drink gin and tonic also originated in British colonial India, when the British population would mix their medicinal quinine tonic with gin.

A persistent problem in the soft drinks industry was the lack of an effective sealing of the bottles. Carbonated drink bottles are under great pressure from the gas, so inventors tried to find the best way to prevent the carbon dioxide or bubbles from escaping. The bottles could also explode if the pressure was too great. Hiram Codd devised a patented bottling machine while working at a small mineral water works in the Caledonian Road, Islington, in London in 1870.

His Codd-neck bottle was designed to enclose a marble and a rubber washer in the neck. The bottles were filled upside down, and pressure of the gas in the bottle forced the marble against the washer, sealing in the carbonation. The bottle was pinched into a special shape to provide a chamber into which the marble was pushed to open the bottle. This prevented the marble from blocking the neck as the drink was poured.

By mid-1873 he had granted 20 licences and received a further 50 applications. This was boosted further by a Trade Show held in London in the same year. By 1874 the licence was free to bottle manufacturers as long as they purchased the marbles, sealing rings and used his groove tool, and the mineral water firms they traded with had already bought a licence to use his bottle.