The Real Reason Nebraska Made Kool-Aid Its Official Soft Drink

Kool-Aid probably makes you think of summertime when you were a kid and didn't give a thought to the ingredients it might contain. It certainly wouldn't be associated with anything "official," either, as it's mostly just sugar. However, Kool-Aid is the official soft drink of Nebraska. Yes, really. If you didn't know that was a thing, you're not alone.

Most states do not have official soft drinks, and if it does have an official drink of any sort, it's likely to be milk, as 20 states share that distinction. Interestingly, that includes Nebraska, which separates "official drink" and "official soft drink" into separate categories (via Net State).

However, there is a reason that Kool-Aid is the official soft drink of Nebraska — it's a popular drink that was invented in 1927 by Edwin Perkins in Hastings, Nebraska. The company only remained in the Cornhusker State for four years before moving to Chicago, but Nebraska still claims the title of the "birthplace of Kool-Aid." Hastings is proud of this, and has a Kool-Aid Museum and the Kool-Aid Man's footprints in cement, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame outside Grauman's Chinese Theater, which was where they were originally formed before being donated to Hastings (via Roadside America).

Visiting Kool-Aid's history

Nebraska declared Kool-Aid as the official soft drink of the state in 1998. The city now celebrates an annual festival, Kool-Aid Days, to honor Hastings and its colorful soft drink history (via State Symbols USA). In 2011, about 40,000 people attended the event (via The Fence Post). It has won many awards, including the Nebraska Travel Industry Award for "Most Outstanding Event." The American Bus Association cited it as one of "North America's Best Events."

Fans of Kool-Aid and random road trip stops can visit the original Kool-Aid factory, which was then the Perkins Products Company where Perkins developed and manufactured Kool-Aid (via Visit Hastings Nebraska).

Kool-Aid was developed after Perkins created Fruit Smack, a flavored syrup. However, the glass bottles he used to hold Fruit Smack broke easily and leaked, leading Perkins, inspired by Jell-O packets, to develop his own drink in packets. The drink was originally called Fruit-Ade (via Atlas Obscura).

The name was changed to Kool-Aid in 1934. In 1953, General Foods purchased the brand, and Kool-Aid is now part of the Kraft Food Company (via Midwest Almanac).

Today you can buy Kool-Aid in multiple forms. The Jammer is a juice pouch, Bursts are bottles of Kool-Aid, Sparklers are cans of Kool-Aid, and there is a multi-serve family-sized bottle, as well as liquid drink mixes, and the original powder, which is now available in canisters and comes in 12 flavors (via Kool-Aid).