The Untold Truth Of Hawaiian Punch

Whether you grew up with Hawaiian Punch always in your kitchen or only got it as a special treat at friends' houses, the bright, sugary drink has been a childhood classic for decades at this point. But it wasn't always. In fact, it was originally created back in 1934 as a syrup topping for ice cream and for years was exclusively sold directly to restaurants and ice cream manufacturers (via Today I Found Out). Once you know that, you might not be too surprised to learn that the drink isn't Hawaiian at all, with the first recipe being created in a garage in California, according to the Hawaiian Punch website. Instead, the syrup was sold under the brand name "Leo's Hawaiian Punch" because many of the fruit ingredients were imported from Hawaii. 

Consumers quickly realized that mixing the syrup with water made a delicious, tropical-tasting punch, but for years they couldn't purchase the concentrate directly from stores. Luckily, in 1946 the company was purchased by Reuben P. Hughes who immediately began expanding the brand. By 1950, both the syrup and a ready-to-serve drinkable version of Hawaiian Punch were available at grocery stores for consumers to purchase. Today, there are 13 different versions available.

How Hawaiian Punch stacks up nutritionally

Hawaiian Punch now comes in a whole rainbow of colors and flavors, from "Juicy Red" to "Blue Typhoon," but if you're expecting real juice in these drinks, you're in for a rude awakening. According to its parent company Keurig Dr. Pepper, the classic red Hawaiian Punch contains just three percent juice, which comes from concentrates and purees. The main ingredients are water and high fructose corn syrup. While one eight-ounce glass does contain about 20 percent of your recommended daily vitamin C intake, this doesn't sound so impressive when compared to the vitamin C content of just one kiwi fruit — a whopping 79 percent (via Healthline).

However, it's not just the high sugar content that's considered unhealthy; the artificial flavors and colors are also a concern to some. According to Is It Bad For You, the flavor additives can cause headaches and nausea. Meanwhile, the artificial colors like Red 40 and Blue 1, although approved by the FDA, can cause hyperactivity in children, particularly those with ADHD, or even result in allergic reactions for sensitive individuals (via Healthline). However, in moderation, Hawaiian Punch is no worse for you than any other sugary beverage tinted with artificial flavors and colors. 

The truth about Hawaiian Punch's dangerous advertising origins

Perhaps the most surprising part of Hawaiian Punch's history lies in the origins of its advertising strategy. Cigarette advertisements have been banned on US television and radio since 1970, however their marketing strategies are anything but extinct (via Politico). In fact, according to researchers at UC San Francisco, the intel gathered from cigarette companies on artificial flavors, colors, and marketing in general have been twisted from getting adults hooked on nicotine to getting kids hooked on sugary drinks, and that includes Hawaiian Punch (via New York Post). In particular, the mascot for the drink, Punchy (who asks people if they want a Hawaiian Punch, and then instead of giving them a drink, punches them) is inspired by the character Joe Camel who once promoted Camel cigarettes.

If this sounds far-fetched, keep in mind that Hawaiian Punch was purchased in 1963 by R.J. Reynolds of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and only after this was the drink marketed directly to children (via The Guardian). Of course, it's not just Hawaiian Punch that used these tobacco tricks, Kool-Aid and Capri Sun are also guilty according to documents disclosed after lawsuits back in the 1990s.