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14 Real Facts About Snapple

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The quirky beverage company has more than 1000 Real Facts, but we’re only serving up 14 of our own. Twist off the cap and enjoy.

#347. IT WAS FOUNDED BY TWO WINDOW WASHERS AND A HEALTH FOOD STORE OWNER.

Childhood friends Arnold Greenberg and Leonard Marsh, along with Marsh’s brother-in-law Hyman Golden, started the Unadulterated Food Corporation in 1972 to sell all-natural juices to the growing number of health food stores in and around New York City. Because they were low on capital and not 100% confident in the concept (Marsh later told The New York Times he “knew about as much about making juice as I did about making an atom bomb”), all three kept their day jobs—Marsh and Golden at their window washing company, Greenberg at his grocery store on Manhattan’s Lower East side.

#673. THE NAME WAS INSPIRED BY A BAD BATCH OF APPLE JUICE.

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A shipment of carbonated apple juice accidentally fermented in the company’s warehouse, sending bottle caps flying. Seeing the humor in the incident, not to mention an opportunity, the founders combined the distinct sound (“snappy”) with the fruit, and voila, “Snapple” was born.

#293. SALES TOOK OFF WHEN THEY STARTED MAKING ICED TEA.

Sales grew slowly through the '70s and '80s, and it wasn’t until Snapple introduced ready-to-drink iced tea in 1987 that the company really took off. The formula took three years to engineer, and the key to the drink’s success, Greenberg told the Times, was that they heated the tea before chilling it to erase any preservatives. “We made the first ready-to-drink tea that didn’t taste like battery acid,” he said.

#18. HOWARD STERN AND RUSH LIMBAUGH USED TO BE SPOKESMEN.

Both shock jocks used to pitch Snapple on their shows (Limbaugh started for free), and both took credit for its national success. Naturally, when the company pulled its support, neither was very happy. Stern, who lost support because of one too many off-color jokes that offended parent company Quaker Oats, referred to it as “Crapple.”

#945. SO WAS IVAN LENDL.

The tennis star takes on what looks to be a cross between Pauly Shore and John McEnroe in this 1991 ad.

#721. REMEMBER WENDY THE SNAPPLE LADY? SHE WAS A REAL EMPLOYEE.

Wendy Kaufman was a real administrator and letter opener at the company’s Long Island office when an ad executive, who wanted to fashion Snapple’s new ad campaign around a real worker, discovered her. Snapple executives balked at Kaufman’s less-than-svelte appearance, but then the ad man, Richard Kirshenbaum, reminded them that Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O’Donnell were two of the most popular celebrities in America at the time. The ads, which involved Kaufman’s “Snapple Lady” answering customer letters in hilarious fashion, were a hit.

#827. THE COMPANY TOOK A NOSE DIVE IN THE MID ‘90S.

Quaker Oats bought Snapple in 1993 and proceeded to suck the life out of the brand. Quaker had achieved phenomenal success with Gatorade, which it bought for a pittance in the early ‘80s, and it tried giving Snapple the same slick, mainstream marketing treatment. It also attempted to centralize distribution, increase serving sizes, and cut down on some of Snapple’s quirkier drinks like “Kiwi Teawi”. Big mistake.

#459. THEY’VE BEEN SUED SEVERAL TIMES FOR THEIR ‘ALL NATURAL’ CLAIM.

The term is loosely defined by the Food and Drug Administration, and other companies in the crosshairs have included Tropicana, Sun Chips and Ben & Jerry’s. Snapple recently transitioned from high fructose corn syrup to sugar.

#136. THEY WERE THE SUBJECT OF A WEIRD RUMOR INVOLVING THE KKK AND THE BOSTON TEA PARTY.

Starting in 1992, a rumor started swirling that Snapple was in cahoots with the KKK. The evidence: The company’s label, which featured a floating “K” on it and a drawing depicting a line of what were rumored to be slave ships. The “K,” of course, signified the beverage’s kosher status, and the sketch was of the Boston Tea Party. It all sounds incredibly silly, but the rumor gained enough steam that Snapple changed its label and ran ads to refute the claims.

#234. THE COMPANY CLAIMS REAL RESEARCHERS VERIFY ITS REAL FACTS.

Hiding under the cap of every Snapple bottle is an odd, endearing “Real Fact” (#992: The patent for the fire hydrant was destroyed in a fire). And the company claims it fact-checks everything. “They are real facts, and we have teams here that fact-check everything,” David Falk, Snapple’s head of marketing, told The Atlantic. “We go through a pretty vigorous process.” 

#703. AND YET, NUMEROUS FACTS ARE WRONG.

Like #868, which says that Thomas Jefferson invented coat hangers (Monticello’s own website refutes the claim). Or #50: Mosquitos have 47 teeth (they have what’s called a serrated proboscis). Snapple has “retired” some of its facts, either because they were inaccurate (#89. The average American walks 18,000 steps a day—something anyone with a Fitbit and a desk job can refute) or because they’re no longer true (#824. On average a man spends about five months of his life shaving.)

#899. BRITISH SCIENTISTS DISPROVED THE THEORY BEHIND SNAPPLE FACT #36.

A duck’s quack does indeed echo, as proved by a recording and expert analysis conducted by the BBC. Case closed.

#640. THEY’VE HAD SOME SAVVY PRODUCT PLACEMENT.

Including an episode of Seinfeld and this very meta product-endorsement argument on 30 Rock.

#98. THEY’RE NOW OWNED BY THE SAME COMPANY THAT MAKES DR. PEPPER, YOO-HOO AND HAWAIIAN PUNCH.

The Dr. Pepper Snapple Company owns more than 30 beverage brands and has sales upwards of $6 billion. Despite its corporate bedfellows, Snapple’s still been able to rekindle some of that quirky marketing appeal.

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A.C. Gilbert, the Toymaker Who (Actually) Saved Christmas 
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was told he had 15 minutes to convince the United States government not to cancel Christmas.

For hours, he paced the outer hall, awaiting his turn before the Council of National Defense. With him were the tools of his trade: toy submarines, air rifles, and colorful picture books. As government personnel walked by, Gilbert, bashful about his cache of kid things, tried hiding them behind a leather satchel.

Finally, his name was called. It was 1918, the U.S. was embroiled in World War I, and the Council had made an open issue about their deliberation over whether to halt all production of toys indefinitely, turning factories into ammunition centers and even discouraging giving or receiving gifts that holiday season. Instead of toys, they argued, citizens should be spending money on war bonds. Playthings had become inconsequential.

Frantic toymakers persuaded Gilbert, founder of the A.C. Gilbert Company and creator of the popular Erector construction sets, to speak on their behalf. Toys in hand, he faced his own personal firing squad of military generals, policy advisors, and the Secretary of War.

Gilbert held up an air rifle and began to talk. What he’d say next would determine the fate of the entire toy industry.

Even if he had never had to testify on behalf of Christmas toys, A.C. Gilbert would still be remembered for living a remarkable life. Born in Oregon in 1884, Gilbert excelled at athletics, once holding the world record for consecutive chin-ups (39) and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault during the 1908 Games. In 1909, he graduated from Yale School of Medicine with designs on remaining in sports as a health advisor.

But medicine wasn’t where Gilbert found his passion. A lifelong performer of magic, he set his sights on opening a business selling illusionist kits. The Mysto Manufacturing Company didn’t last long, but it proved to Gilbert that he had what it took to own and operate a small shingle. In 1916, three years after introducing the Erector sets, he renamed Mysto the A.C. Gilbert Company.

Erector was a big hit in the burgeoning American toy market, which had typically been fueled by imported toys from Germany. Kids could take the steel beams and make scaffolding, bridges, and other small-development projects. With the toy flying off shelves, Gilbert’s factory in New Haven, Connecticut grew so prosperous that he could afford to offer his employees benefits that were uncommon at the time, like maternity leave and partial medical insurance.

Gilbert’s reputation for being fair and level-headed led the growing toy industry to elect him their president for the newly created Toy Manufacturers of America, an assignment he readily accepted. But almost immediately, his position became something other than ceremonial: His peers began to grow concerned about the country’s involvement in the war and the growing belief that toys were a dispensable effort.

President Woodrow Wilson had appointed a Council of National Defense to debate these kinds of matters. The men were so preoccupied with the consequences of the U.S. marching into a European conflict that something as trivial as a pull-string toy or chemistry set seemed almost insulting to contemplate. Several toy companies agreed to convert to munitions factories, as did Gilbert. But when the Council began discussing a blanket prohibition on toymaking and even gift-giving, Gilbert was given an opportunity to defend his industry.

Before Gilbert was allowed into the Council’s chambers, a Naval guard inspected each toy for any sign of sabotage. Satisfied, he allowed Gilbert in. Among the officials sitting opposite him were Secretary of War Newton Baker and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

“The greatest influences in the life of a boy are his toys,” Gilbert said. “Yet through the toys American manufacturers are turning out, he gets both fun and an education. The American boy is a genuine boy and wants genuine toys."

He drew an air rifle, showing the committee members how a child wielding less-than-lethal weapons could make for a better marksman when he was old enough to become a soldier. He insisted construction toys—like the A.C. Gilbert Erector Set—fostered creative thinking. He told the men that toys provided a valuable escape from the horror stories coming out of combat.

Armed with play objects, a boy’s life could be directed toward “construction, not destruction,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert then laid out his toys for the board to examine. Secretary Daniels grew absorbed with a toy submarine, marveling at the detail and asking Gilbert if it could be bought anywhere in the country. Other officials examined children’s books; one began pushing a train around the table.

The word didn’t come immediately, but the expressions on the faces of the officials told the story: Gilbert had won them over. There would be no toy or gift embargo that year.

Naturally, Gilbert still devoted his work floors to the production efforts for both the first and second world wars. By the 1950s, the A.C. Gilbert Company was dominating the toy business with products that demanded kids be engaged and attentive. Notoriously, he issued a U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, which came complete with four types of uranium ore. “Completely safe and harmless!” the box promised. A Geiger counter was included. At $50 each, Gilbert lost money on it, though his decision to produce it would earn him a certain infamy in toy circles.

“It was not suitable for the same age groups as our simpler chemistry and microscope sets, for instance,” he once said, “and you could not manufacture such a thing as a beginner’s atomic energy lab.”

Gilbert’s company reached an astounding $20 million in sales in 1953. By the mid-1960s, just a few years after Gilbert's death in 1961, it was gone, driven out of business by the apathy of new investors. No one, it seemed, had quite the same passion for play as Gilbert, who had spent over half a century providing fun and educational fare that kids were ecstatic to see under their trees.

When news of the Council’s 1918 decision reached the media, The Boston Globe's front page copy summed up Gilbert’s contribution perfectly: “The Man Who Saved Christmas.”

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Ho, No: Christmas Trees Will Be Expensive and Scarce This Year
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The annual tradition of picking out the healthiest, densest, biggest tree that you can tie to your car’s roof and stuff in your living room won’t be quite the same this year. According to The New York Times, Christmas trees will be scarce in some parts of the country and markedly more expensive overall.

The reason? Not Krampus, Belsnickel, or Scrooge, but something even more miserly: the American economy. The current situation has roots in 2008, when families were buying fewer trees due to the recession. Because more trees stayed in the ground, tree farms planted fewer seeds that year. And since firs grow in cycles of 8 to 10 years, we’re now arriving at a point where that diminished supply is beginning to impact the tree industry.

New York Times reporter Tiffany Hsu reports that 2017’s healthier holiday spending habits are set to drive up the price of trees as consumers vie for the choicest cuts on the market. In 2008, trees were just under $40 on average. Now, they’re $75 or more.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice tree at a decent price—just that some farms will run out of prime selections more quickly and you might have to settle for something a little less impressive than in years past. Tree industry experts also caution that the shortages could last through 2025.

[h/t New York Times]

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