At Dr Pepper Snapple Group, we are known for our diverse and iconic portfolio of flavors. In addition to our flagship trademarks, and other large brands like 7UP, A&W and Hawaiian Punch, we are proud to have a wide range of local and regional favorites with deep connections to their hometowns. One such brand is Vernors, a Michigan original celebrating 150 years this month with its passionate and devoted fans in the Great Lakes State.
First created in 1866, Vernors is believed to be the oldest American soft drink. To commemorate the brand’s anniversary and local heritage, the Vernors Ginger Ale Collector’s Club is leading a special weeklong celebration, culminating in a final party on June 11. The celebration will feature an array of events, including a “poker run,” historical presentations, restaurant specials and even an attempt to break a world record.
It’s hard to find a bigger Vernors fan on the planet than Keith Wunderlich. A Detroit-area school district superintendent by day, Wunderlich has a passion for local history. This inspired a collection of Motor City memorabilia started 30 years ago that before long centered on Vernors collectibles and led to his founding of the Vernors Ginger Ale Collector’s Club and a book he authored about the brand and its Detroit heritage.
Wunderlich has been instrumental in planning the activities and recruiting businesses for the festivities, as well as working closely with the local Dr Pepper Snapple sales and distribution team to coordinate with their local retail promotion. He says he hopes the celebration will encourage participants to reconnect with the city’s historical ties to Vernors.
“Vernors isn’t just a product or a soda pop—it’s a part of everybody’s story who grew up here in Detroit,” explains Wunderlich. “From my parents dating at the Vernors soda fountain to moms giving it to their kids when they had sore throats, Vernors is engrained in our history and our culture.”
Detroit pharmacist James Vernor first created the ginger ale drink before enlisting in the Civil War in 1862. Prior to departing for the war, Vernor developed a medicinal syrup mixture and stored it in an oak cask in his pharmacy. Upon returning home from battle four years later, he discovered his drink had developed a special taste during his absence.
As Vernor started selling the drink in his pharmacy, local demand for the drink grew rapidly, and Vernor began distributing his product through soda fountains around the city. Eventually, Vernor closed his pharmacy, opened his own soda store and opened a bottling plant to expand distribution of his product.
The Vernor family maintained ownership of the company following Vernor’s death until selling to a group of investors in 1966. Decades later, the brand ended up in the Dr Pepper Snapple family in the mid 1990s.
Throughout all of the drink’s ownership changes over the last century and a half, loyal families of Detroiters have remained committed to the brand. Wunderlich says the local significance of Vernors is similar to the ties that Dr Pepper has to Texas, and he hopes this celebration is a demonstration of that special connection.
“Everyone who has family here has history involving Vernors. We want this weekend to be a reminder of all the things people can do and enjoy with Vernors.”
The event is highlighted by contests, special anniversary displays at downtown CVS stores and Boston Coolers (popular ice cream floats made with Vernors) at the museum. In addition, select downtown building will be illuminated in the brand’s signature colors.
Attendees who participate in the “poker run” will receive a list of Vernors sites to visit in Detroit and take selfies at each site in exchange for a playing card at the Detroit Historical Museum. Participants will receive prizes at the end of the run based on the strength of the poker hands they collect.
For a full list of this weekend’s activities and events, please visit http://vernorsclub.weebly.com/150th-anniversary-party-6-11-16.html.