The lemon-lime soft drink 7-Up has been a fixture of America's refrigerators (see entry under 1910s—The Way We Lived in volume 1) for many years. At various times, it has been the number three–selling soft drink in the world, outpaced by only Coca-Cola (see entry under 1900s—Food and Drink in volume 1) and Pepsi. Its offbeat ad campaigns, emphasizing the differences between the refreshing flavor of 7-Up and the heavy cola taste of its rivals, have helped shape the brand's quirky image and inspired numerous imitators.
7-Up was first formulated in 1929 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Howdy Corporation originally marketed it under the name the "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda," although it soon changed its name to 7-Up Lithiated Lemon Soda. There are various explanations for the name 7-Up. Some claimed that there are (or were) seven ingredients in 7-Up. Others contend that the original 7-Up bottle was seven ounces, or that the drink was named after a popular card game of the 1930s. No one knows for sure. In any case, the company became The Seven-Up Co. in 1936.
By the late 1940s, 7-Up had become the third best-selling soft drink in the world. It enjoyed its greatest period of popularity in the 1970s, however, when an ad campaign dubbed it "the Uncola." Television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3) commercials and print ads featuring the catchy tagline helped cement 7-Up's image in the public mind as a refreshing alternative to Coke and Pepsi.
Inevitably, 7-Up's popularity began to slip, as new drinks, like the Coca-Cola Company's lemon-lime Sprite, caught the public's fancy. By 1996, 7-Up had fallen to the eighth best-selling soft drink with about 2.4 percent of the market. Sprite was fourth at 5.8 percent.
In 1997, the makers of 7-Up announced the first major changes to the soft drink's formula. The new taste was designed to produce a "better blend of lemon and lime flavors," according to a company spokesman, and to help 7-Up compete with Sprite. Despite the change, however, 7-Up sales continued to stagnate. Sales did not begin to rise again until the turn of the twenty-first century, when a hip new ad campaign featuring comedian Orlando Jones (1968–) and the tagline "Make 7-Up Yours" breathed new life into an old brand.
—Robert E. Schnakenberg
For More Information
Dietz, Lawrence. Soda Pop: The History, Advertising, Art, and Memorabilia of Soft Drinks in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973.
Rodengen, Jeffrey L. The Legend of Dr. Pepper/7-Up. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Books, 1995.
7-UP.http://www.7up.com (accessed January 23, 2002).