Charles Leiper Grigg

SOFT DRINK INVENTOR

“It’s An Up Thing”
—Ad Campaign for 7-Up

C. L. Grigg was born in a small town that rarely shows up on most state maps.  However, his impact still resonates in the food and beverage industry to this day. He invented a number of soft drinks including Whistle and the world-famous 7-Up. Despite the popularity of the drink, Grigg failed to leave behind one very important part of his legacy: the reason for the 7-Up name!

Location of Montgomery City in MissouriTHE EARLY YEARS

Charles Leiper Grigg was born in 1868 in Price’s Branch, which is near Montgomery City. Not much is known about his early years, before Grigg moved to St. Louis to work in advertising and sales for soft drink companies.

RISE TO FAME

A short time after Grigg arrived in St. Louis, he landed a job in the soft drink industry. The beverage industry just happened to be an up-and-coming business in St. Louis at the time, and he was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the shifting marketplace. He first worked for a manufacturing company owned by Vess Jones where Grigg invented an orange-flavored soft drink called “Whistle.”

A few years after joining the company, Grigg had conflicts with management, so he left Vess. That split meant he had to leave the rights to his orange soda invention with the company. He took a job at a new soft drink manufacturer, where his primary role was to develop new flavors for sodas. His next soft drink concoction was again an orange-flavored drink called “Howdy.”

After yet another successful tenure with a major company, he again left for another business venture, but this time, he was able to take his concoction with him to start his own Howdy Company. Howdy got off to a rough start because of heavy competition from a drink called Orange Crush, which was dominating the market share of orange drinks at the time. So Grigg went back to the drawing board to look for a drink that the beverage market had yet to embrace. This time his focus was on lemon lime carbonated soft drinks.

SHOW ME SUCCESS

In October of 1929, Grigg settled on a formula that not only tasted great but also seemed to have some medicinal benefits. He spent two years testing eleven different formulas before he settled on a formula that he deemed to be the most refreshing and thirst quenching. There were a number of lemon lime drinks sold at the time, but none had developed a following. He called the caramel colored drink, Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda. The name was difficult to say much less to sell to the public, so it was soon changed to 7-Up Lithiated Lemon-Lime and then again to 7-Up. The reason for the name is still a mystery because Grigg never explained why he shortened the name other than to say that it helped the soda sell better.

The “Un-cola” took a while to catch on, possibly because it debuted a few weeks before the stock market crash of 1929. Grigg was convinced that the public would eventually buy into the product, so he took the unusual step of claiming that the Lithia ingredient in the soda could affect your moods (Lithia is better known as lithium). During the Great Depression, he figured a large number of people would likely need a “pick me up,” and the marketing of the drink turned out to be a huge success. By the 1940s, 7-Up was the third best selling soft drink in the world. During this incredible growth, the Howdy Corporation name was eventually changed to the 7-Up Company. Charles Grigg died in 1940, and his son took command of the company.

EXTRA, EXTRA!

*Grigg never told the reason why he named the drink 7-Up. Here are widely circulated theories.

  • *7-Up was the product of seven ingredients.
  • *Beverages of the day were often sold in seven-ounce bottles.
  • *The drink possibly cured mankind’s “seven hangovers.”
  • *Grigg won a great deal of money in a craps game thanks to all the sevens that were rolled that night.

Links:

History of 7UP Advertising

Inventor’s Hall of Fame

 

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