Soft Drinks & Diet Soft Drinks - Kentucky Beverage AssociationKentucky Beverage Association

Soft Drinks & Diet Soft Drinks

While many different categories make up the American beverage product picture, carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) and their diet counterparts continue to be some of the most popular.  Since the early days of our nation’s history, carbonated soft drinks have occupied a unique place in the hearts, minds and palates of the American consumer.


The term soft drink is derived from the phrase “soda water,” dating back to 1798.  At that time, soft drink creation and soda fountain manufacturing were handled by local pharmacists because of their experience with chemistry and medicine.  In 1835, the first bottled soda water was produced in the United States.

As the local drugstore evolved into the central attraction in most American towns and neighborhoods, the pharmacist was integral in providing beverages that were part pharmacology and part refreshment.

By 1876, root beer entered the marketplace, but it wasn’t until five years later that the first cola-flavored beverage was unveiled.

It would be more than 70 years before the first “official” diet soft drink was introduced in 1952, but others soon followed.  In 1958, RC Cola introduced Diet Rite®, the first nationally distributed diet soft drink. Tab, Fresca® and Diet Pepsi® entered the marketplace in the 1960s; Sugar-free 7UP was introduced in 1970; and Diet Coke® made its debut in 1982.
Credit: American Beverage Association