Game Show Prep: More Facts About Fresca

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We're betting that Ken Basin will never forget what that fourth button was for on LBJ's desk. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire fans know what we're talking about; the rest of you can watch this clip:

Since the interest in this refreshing beverage has now reached fever pitch (or mild sore throat and sniffles pitch, anyway), here are some fun Fresca facts to feed your frenzy.

"¢ The Coca-Cola Company first put Fresca on our grocer's shelves in 1963. It was one of the few diet soft drinks available at that time, along with Tab and Diet Rite. Of course, during that era the word "diet" wasn't considered an effective marketing tool; such sodas were referred to as "sugar-free" or "low calorie" instead. Fresca had a tangy citrus-y, grapefruit-y flavor similar to Squirt, which had been on the market in limited distribution areas since 1938.

"¢ Note the unique design of the original Fresca bottle. That grooved "channel" just under the label was in place to catch the condensation that was sure to drip down the side. Because Fresca was so cool it was cold, man.

"¢ Fresca's advertising "hook" was that it was chillingly refreshing on a hot summer's day. Variations of "Come out of the heat and into the cold" was the theme for much of their advertising in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Here's an example:

"¢ Singer Trini Lopez did hit the top five on Billboard's pop chart once with "If I Had a Hammer," but as far as overall coolness goes, his tunes were more likely to be heard in your dentist's office than in the local discotheques. Nevertheless, Coca-Cola found him sufficiently groovy enough to record "The Blizzard Song," which was given away as a freebie with specially marked cases of Fresca in 1967.

"¢ One reason Fresca was so popular in its day was that it not only had no sugar and only two calories per 10 ounce serving, but it was a dietetic product that didn't taste like a mildewed sweat sock. The secret behind its sugar-free yet sweet flavor was an artificial sweetener called Cyclamate.

no-cyclamateOne lesson we all learn as kids is that any time something really good comes along, there's always someone in the wings waiting to take it away from you. In this case the spoilsport was FDA research scientist Dr. Jacqueline Verrett, who appeared on some TV news programs with baby chicks who'd been injected with massive doses of Cyclamate as embryos. Fifteen percent of the birds had developed Thalidomide-like deformities, and widespread panic ensued. October 18, 1969, the government banned the use of Cyclamate and a senior vice president of Coca-Cola recalled that his staff "woke up a lot of printers in the middle of the night" in order to change the text on their bottles. While the company's chemists started work on a new formula using saccharine, the new catch-phrase was printed on each container of Fresca in order to reassure concerned consumers: NO CYCLAMATE.

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August 25, 2009 - 11:17am
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