Soda Pop of the Week: Welch’s Soda
Welch’s sodas followed many years after the creation of Welch’s Grape Juice. In 1869 a dentist and former Methodist minister, Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch, decided to create a non-alcoholic wine. It was intended to be a temperance drink and alternative to wine for churchgoers in his hometown of Vineland, New Jersey. He succeeded in pasteurizing bottled grape juice by boiling it, to prevent fermentation. He called the juice “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine”. He was unable to change the longstanding tradition of taking wine at communion and his unfermented grape juice wasn’t much of a success. Dr. Welch’s gave up after four years of attempting to promote his non-alcoholic grape juice.
Thomas’ son, Charles Edgar Welch, also saw the need for a temperance beverage. He encouraged his father to have another go at the Dr. Welch’s grape juice business while Charles was attending dentistry school in Washington. Charles enlisted a local farmer to do the grape pressing and his father supervised juice production. In 1975 Charles returned home to practice dentistry and run the small unfermented wine business with his father. They also opened up Welch’s Dental Supply Company.
Charles opened a small grape juice factory in 1886 while continuing to practice dentistry. Within five years, he needed to move the factory to a larger building. In 1893 they changed the name of the grape juice from Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine to “Welch’s Grape Juice” and attended the Chicago World’s Fair. There they premiered their drink, handing samples out to the crowd.
As a result of their exposure at the World’s Fair, Welch’s Grape Juice became nationally known. The business grew so much that Charles decided running two businesses was too much. He left dentistry and began to devote all his time to the business of making and advertising his grape juice. The business continued to grow and by 1894 it was necessary for him to move to a new factory. Very soon after, he moved again, to Westfield, New York because of raising grape prices. In 1897 the Welch’s Grape Juice Company was incorporated. The relocation caused the company to prosper and it grew over the following years, producing new products such as grape jelly.
Starting in 1934 Welch’s joined a radio program called “The Irene Rich Show” and sponsored shows like “Howdy Doody” and “The Flintstones”. In 1956 the company was bought by the National Grape Co-operative and renamed Welch Foods. In 1974 they licensed the Welch’s name for a line of soft drinks and Welch’s Grape Soda was first introduced, with an assortment of fruit flavored sodas to follow.
The company has since changed hands several times and, in 1981, the Dr Pepper Company bought the rights to Welch’s soft drinks. Today Welch’s soda brands are licensed to the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. of Plano, Texas. Some of the flavors you can find today are the original Welch’s Grape, Strawberry, Fruit Punch, Pineapple and Peach.
Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc.