The Untold Truth Of Cherry Coke

Who doesn't love Cherry Coke? The great taste of cherries joins in harmony together with America's favorite soda. Actually, the Coca-Cola brand is the world's top-selling soda, according to Beverage Daily. Coca-Cola ranks almost double the value of its second-place competitor, Pepsi-Co, and Cherry Coke is part of the brand's secret to success. Cherry Coke, which now goes by the lengthy name of Coca-Cola Cherry, was the Coca-Cola company's first attempt at marketing a flavored beverage.

The New York Times announced Cherry Coke's release in 1985 as a direct competitor to another cherry-flavored soda. The same year brought us the notorious "New Coke." Luckily, unlike the other ill-fated beverage, Cherry Coke proved to be an instant success and has been a sure-fire hit for the past three-plus decades. So much so that Cherry Coke is now available in 36 different countries around the world, says Coke Solutions. Cherry Coke is arguably the best Coke flavor. The soda has also gone through its own evolution thanks to many branding changes, celebrity endorsements and failed caffeine updates by the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola company.

Cherry Coke started as a soda fountain favorite

Cherry Coke in cans and bottles has only been around since 1985, but the soda's origins are far older. No one knows which soda jerk (from the days when this was an actual job title and not an insult) was the first to think of adding cherry syrup to Coke. The popularity of drugstore soda fountains meant individually mixed cherry Coke sodas had been around since the late-1800s, says Retro Planet. Atlanta chemist and pharmacist, Dr. John Pemberton developed Coke the site says to replace a wine concoction during Prohibition, designing a non-alcoholic formula made with Peruvian coca (yes, the now illegal kind of coke) and the kola nut. Soda shops mixed flavors and acted as social spaces for all ages. Time even pegs Coca-Colas mixed with cherry syrup as an integral part of Greatest Generation dating practices, as much so as "convertibles, sock hops, and holding hands."

While pre-mixed Cherry Coke is undoubtedly more convenient, and available in every convenience store, gas station, and grocery, some people still wax nostalgic over the superior taste of the soda fountain variety. If you're wondering what you missed out on, you may still want to try this fabled concoction. Luckily, Serious Eats found Cherry Coke is simple to DIY with cherry syrup and anise and vanilla extracts (or a bit of original Coke). Bonus points if you put on a poodle skirt and listen to a few old Chubby Checker or Bill Haley 45s.

Cherry Coke (in a can) was introduced at the World's Fair

Some of the most legendary foods owe their origin to the World's Fair, international conventions for demonstrating technological, scientific, architectural, and dietary innovations. The 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis brought us ice cream cones. It's possible that crab rangoon was also introduced at the same St. Louis fair. Kraft is said to have unveiled the miracle that is Miracle Whip at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933.

Cherry Coke is also a World's Fair baby, as it was first test-marketed to patrons of the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. Time reported that the Coca-Cola Company was experimenting with the idea of adding flavors to its signature beverage for the first time, so it used fairgoers as guinea pigs to test the relative merits of lemon, lime, and vanilla as well as cherry. Cherry won the flavor popularity contest, and a few years later it was added to the Coca-Cola product starting lineup. The same year of its release, The New York Times reported how the soda company started testing flavors three years prior to land on the "light taste" of cherry flavoring versus natural cherry juice.

Cherry Coke was meant to compete with Dr Pepper

In addition to Cherry Coke's winning the World's Fair flavor popularity contest, there was another reason why Coca-Cola may have chosen to lead off with a cherry-flavored product. The New York Times noted in a 1985 article that Cherry Coke would be able to go head-to-head with Dr Pepper, another popular cherry-flavored beverage. Coca-Cola had every reason to believe that the addition of "Coke" to a product's name could spell instant bestseller. The Times says that had been the case with Diet Coke when introduced in 1982 to instant acclaim. Although the company did have a non-cola cherry offering called Mr Pibb, Time revealed that this product never really sold well.

As Coke Solutions explains, Coca-Cola's hopes in their new flavored drink turned out to be a good bet: a mere 10 weeks after Cherry Coke's debut, the soda had a "consumer awareness level of 91%." In other words, the drink people grew up on in soda shops caught on quickly in a can. Coke Solutions says Cherry Coke cracked the "top 10 list of best-selling soft drinks" in the first year of the launch. Cherry Coke's success is perhaps even more astounding knowing Pepsi raced to release its own cherry soda in Canada ahead of its competitor's launch, according to CBC. Coke's (and history's) response? "It doesn't make one bit of difference."

Cherry Coke Zero disappeared from shelves due to shortages

Cherry Coke is still a crowd-pleaser even when production struggles to meet demand. Aficionados weren't imagining their beloved Cherry Coke disappearing. Some of the recent talk was anecdotal, like one fan and Jewish Times columnist lamenting the inability to find her favorite cherry soda. Coca-Cola announced on social media that the shortage of aluminum and increased demand caused empty shelves in 2020, reported the Orlando Sentinel. The news outlet also found shortages of artificial sweeteners contributed to the lack of diet drinks such as Cherry Coke Zero. Issues like the aluminum can shortage caused multiple manufacturers to produce beverages at limited capacity during the ongoing pandemic.

Cherry Coke Zero is considered a "niche" variety by the brand, Eat This says. The conglomerate decided to put the flavored drink on the backburner. The food site found retail sales of aluminum drink cans jumped 24% by volume in March 2020 and continued to rise as the year went on. The allure of aluminum is there for a reason. Cans weigh less, are less likely to break, and more often recycled, Eat This reports. Seems worth it to wait for good things.

Cherry Coke started a range of flavors around the world

Cherry Coke landed in the market as the first flavored soda by the company. CNN reports Cherry Coke spawned a line of flavors, including the recent addition of Cherry Vanilla and Zero Sugar versions in bottles and cans. The blend has long been another fountain soda favorite. The news site says the push of the new canned flavor is part of the company's desire to stay competitive in the market. Cherry Coke was also chosen as the one flavor (besides the original) to kick off the company's new line of sports drinks, Coca-Cola Energy available in both cherry and Zero Sugar varieties.

Black Cherry Vanilla is another flavor that only lasted for a short time. Insider reports Black Cherry Vanilla and the diet option debuted in 2006. By 2007, the company stopped making the hybrid drink. Despite its many years on the shelf, drink lovers on Tripadvisor continue to look for the discontinued cans.

Coke Energy Cherry tasted different in the U.S.

The cherry-flavored Coke Energy, officially called Coke Energy Cherry, launched in the U.S. in 2020. Business Insider reported Coke Energy as the first non-soda drink to be included under the Coke name and its first energy drink in the United States. Each type of Coke Energy includes guarana, a caffeine-rich Brazilian plant extract, B vitamins, and added stimulants and antioxidants. Part of the effort to revitalize the Coca-Cola brand, CNN reports Coke Energy's flavor is closer to an original while international varieties contain more citrus. Both offer a whopping 114 grams of caffeine.

To make matters more complicated, Investopedia reports Coke bought a 16.7% minority stake in Monster Energy drinks. All the same, the energy drink failed to live up to the hype. After only a short run in North America, Coca-Cola's answer to energy drinks has been discontinued. CNN Business says the brand nixed Coke Energy — along with Coke Energy Cherry — as part of 200 brands produced by the umbrella company. Even unveiling Coke Energy with an ad during the Super Bowl couldn't save the drink. CNBC reports the ad featured actor Jonah Hill needing a jolt of energy to meet director Martin Scorsese at a party. Even the aptly named "Show Up" campaign failed to garner enough attention to save the new brand. Pandemic shortages, work-from-home schedules, and limits on production capacity during the same year probably didn't help matters.

Cherry Coke targets young people

Cherry coke is sweet, a dose of nostalgia for those of a certain age, and well, addictive. It's the Coke lovers of a younger demographic that seem to be the issue. Coke Solutions says Cherry Coke upon its launch in 1985 claimed its target audience to be "adventurous consumers of all ages." By 1987, the site found children ages 8 to 19 (sure, young adults but barely) contributed to almost half of Cherry Coke sales. Marketing efforts in the 1990s targeted teens, says Coke Solutions, and continue to be a focus for retailers in the food service to bring in young consumers. Even Coca-cola will admit too much sugar is bad for your health. The effects of drinking a Coke aren't exactly healthy.

Perhaps, the company had older aspirations. The New York Times reported the Company narrowed the target audience of Cherry Coke to the 12-to-29-year age group. The news outlet says the brand wanted to attract younger generations who weren't alive when drugstores combined cherry syrup and cola beverages at a soda shop. Still, getting children hooked on high fructose corn syrup and caffeine could be a big red flag — or should we say, red can?

Cherry Coke debuted as a fountain drink in the '90s

Selecting a fountain drink is highly individual. Soda lovers also know the taste of fountain soda is different from a can. What's the difference? Today explains restaurant chains will create drinks with more sugar by adding syrup in a fountain drink. Flavor can be affected over time, reports Today, in aluminum cans and other bottles. The site says McDonald's reigns as the best-tasting fountain Cokes due to its ratio of syrup to carbonated water, which anticipates melting ice affecting the taste. The New York Times says the fast-food chain also received its syrup delivered in steel tanks instead of plastic bags to keep the taste fresh.

Love it or find it lacking, Cherry Coke took a bit of time to make it into official fountain drink form. Coke Solutions says Cherry Coke received the fountain soda designation in 1990 with more of a cherry flavor of the soda shop variety. Additional cherry might be just the ticket regardless if you remember the drink or not.

Cherry Vanilla Coke launched due to its popularity at Freestyle machines

Mixing fountain drinks is a delight to many people. Freestyle machines allow customers to choose. Cherry Vanilla Coke is the most popular mixed soda at Freestyle machines, says CNN, leading the company to launch pre-mixed versions in bottles and cans. The business site explains the 51,000 machines communicate across one platform to track consumer behavior such as popular flavors and how much soda is dispensed. CNN Business says Freestyle machines found Cherry Vanilla to be such a popular mixture that the brand released its first new permanent flavor since Orange Vanilla Coke in 2007. The Daily Meal reviewed the new mixture but found the balance of the two flavors to be lacking. The site claims one tester thought the flavors to be so subtle she might be drinking regular Coke instead of the hybrid. Of course, soda diehards will tell you fountain drinks and canned varieties are sometimes miles apart in flavor — and some prefer it that way.

Cherry Vanilla Coke is another grab to stay relevant with updated flavors as people gravitate to drinks with energy boosts and more nutritional value, reports CBS 5 News. Hybrid drinks are a fresh take for people without access to the machines or would prefer a grab-and-go option. Cherry Vanilla is the flavor Coke lovers have been waiting for. Foreign Affairs News reports, since 2017, Los Angeles residents alone have dispensed around 6.6 million cans of Cherry Vanilla Coke.

Jay-Z once had a hand in Cherry Coke's design and marketing

Branding changes reinvent Cherry Coke for each new generation. The brand has gone through multiple updates in the almost 40 years since Cherry Coke launched in bottles and cans. The biggest might be the Coca-Cola Cherry name itself. Like some Chicagoans will always say Sears Tower, we'll never forget you Cherry Coke! Not all upgrades are cause for concern. Chowhound tracked the evolution of the Cherry Coke cans from simple red to vibrant pink. An unexpected ally, and proud businessman, helped the brand in the aughts to join the 21st Century.

In 2007, Coca-Cola decided to enlist some help from Jay-Z to endorse the product, but they also hired him to help design the can and to create the TV commercials that would feature one of his songs as a soundtrack (via the St. Louis American). Pitchfork reports the company kept Jay-Z's design until 2011. To date, Celebrity Endorsers indicates Jay-Z has been Cherry Coke's one and only celebrity spokesperson. The business deal might have even played a part in Jay Z not performing at the Super Bowl with wife Beyonce in 2013 due to his connection to Coca-Cola and her partnership with rival Pepsi-Co, according to Forbes. Although, with a product as tasty as Cherry Coke, you really don't need a prominent hype man. The product pretty much sells itself.

Warren Buffet drinks five cans of Cherry Coke a day

Warren Buffet is known as a shrewd businessman who knows how to get a return on his investment. He's also a huge, huge fan of Coke products. He told Fortune (via CNBC) that he's "one quarter Coca-Cola" and drinks "at least five 12-ounce servings." Soda consumption aside, he must be doing something right to still be making deals at age 90. Insider reports he switched to the brand from Pepsi after five decades as a devotee to the rival soda giant. What changed his mind? A neighbor Don Keough "intervened," says the new site, by sending Buffet samples of the new Cherry Coke then in development. Keogh's coffee company was bought by Coke in 1964, says Insider, and Keogh acted as chief operating officer in 1981. Eventually, the news site reports Warren bought upwards of $1.3 billion worth of stock in Coca-cola in the '80s and '90s.

The soda-loving investor didn't stop with his behind-the-scenes admiration of the brand. Yahoo reports Buffet's face appeared on cans of Cherry Coke in China. The investor told the site he became a rockstar investor in the country by being at the "right place at the right time" when China wanted famous investors.

Diet Coke Feisty Cherry is an all new take on a classic

Cherry Coke offers rich flavor and plenty of caffeine, fizz and sweetness. Not everyone is interested in a heavy soda when seltzers have taken over the market for daytime and nighttime varieties. Millennials want options. Coca-Cola is willing to put in the work to win them over. Diet Coke got its first redesign in over 35 years, according to Bon Appetit, with four new flavors including Diet Feisty Cherry. The company is said to have reached out to 10,000 people nationwide to understand which new flavors to come out with next. The packs include updated branding with simpler color palettes and thinner cans, says the food site.

The Coca-Cola Company released a statement explaining it took two years to bring the modern Diet Coke options to customers. The research and development team claims to have tried over 30 different flavors before landing on the winning four. Bon Appetit might have hinted at its skepticism for the company's attempt at relevance. But we have to agree with them: Don't you just want to try Feisty Cherry at least once?