Jerry Summers: The Other Colas - Double And Royal Crown

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

Although Coca Cola and Pepsi have dominated the soft drink industry, over the years Chattanooga has had a history of involvement with the lesser successful beverages – Double-Cola and Royal Crown Cola (R.C.)

Double-Cola was founded by Charles Little and Joe S. Foster in 1933 in Chattanooga, and was so named because its 12-ounce bottles were twice the size of other soda bottles being sold at that time.

Because of sugar rationing during World War II the company incurred financial problems because of the size of the bottle but Little refused to downsize.

He expanded the product line to include several brands including Ski, a citrus drink made of natural orange and lemon flavorings, in 1956.  The name Ski was selected from a nomination by one of the company’s employees, Dot Myers, which was based on her experiences while on a weekend-long water ski trip on Lake Chickamauga.

In 1962 Little sold the Double-Cola Company to Fairmont Food Company, which allegedly drained the company of its resources.

The company had remained profitable during the Great Depression but Little made several management mistakes in the 1930s by failing to adjust to the times and used an unsuccessful version of vending machines.

Double-Cola would eventually be ranked as the fourth largest cola brand behind Coca Cola, Pepsi and Seven Up.  Today it lags behind the other major colas but still maintains its headquarters in Chattanooga. 

Double Cola is still sold in its classic bottles at the popular Cracker Barrel Restaurant chain that is prevalent in the areas near the freeway system.

Chattanooga Bakery first produced its giant-sized chocolate-covered marshmallow biscuit in 1917.  When R.C.

Cola launched production in 1934 it fast became a “working man’s lunch special" in the 1950s for the cost of 10 cents which entitled the consumer to indulge on a 16-ounce soda and almost half a pound of a Moon Pie.

The birth of R.C. Cola arose out of a dispute between Claude A. Hatcher and his local Coca Cola syrup salesman, Columbus Roberts.  As a large purchaser of Coke syrup, Hatcher attempted to negotiate a lower price and, when Roberts would not budge, Hatcher decided to produce his own soft drink products.  He developed a series of colas and colored and flavored drinks in 1925 as the Nehi Corporation.

In 1934 Hatcher’s chemist, Rufus Kamm, produced and released Royal Crown Cola.

In 1961 the company developed the first sugar free diet beverage, Diet Rite Cola, which was an instant success which allowed it to gain in sales on its two main rivals, Pepsi and Cola Cola.  However, in October 1969 the federal government banned the use of the artificial sweetener cyclamate, the main ingredient in Diet Cola.  As a result of this setback the company diversified into several non-beverage industries.

History of the cola industry has included numerous court battles including efforts by Coca Cola to prevent the use of the term “cola” by any other producer.  Such was the case with Nehi when it prevailed in 1944 in a lawsuit after 30 years that allowed its company to use the word cola in its promotional advertisements.

Although the day of the 10 cent lunch is long gone, the phrase “Give me an R.C. Cola and Moonpie” still produces a nostalgic reminder of the good old days of a good drink and a large pie at a reasonable price.

Both Double-Cola and R. C. Cola (and Moonpies) are part of the rich history in the South of the Cola wars.        

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com  

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