The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.
Like most medium-sized American cities, Fullerton has spawned a few companies over the years that have risen to national prominence and become household names. Fender Guitars is probably the most well-known. But a close second is Hawaiian Punch.
The story of how Hawaiian Punch started is really not all that interesting, I’m sorry to say. Some guys made a product in their garage, it became popular, they sold it.
What is WAY more interesting to me is how Hawaiian Punch got swallowed into a giant corporate conglomerate, as is the case with most successful American products.
Here’s the story:
1934: A.W. Lee, Tom Yates, and Ralph Harrison develop the first Hawaiian Punch recipe in a converted garage in Fullerton, CA. It was originally meant as an ice cream flavoring, but people apparently liked to add water and drink it straight up.
1946: Reuben P. Hughes, with other investors, buys Hawaiian Punch and re-packages it as a beverage.
1963: Tobacco giant RJ Reynolds acquires Hawaiian Punch under its RJR Nabisco subsidiary.
1981: RJ Reynolds transfers Hawaiian Punch to another of its major food subsidiaries, Del Monte.
1990: Proctor and Gamble, one of the largest corporations in the world, acquires Hawaiian Punch.
1999: Cadbury Schwepps, which becomes a subsidiary of Kraft Foods, acquires Hawaiian Punch.
Today, Hawaiian Punch is operated by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, a subsidiary of Cadbury Schwepps, a subsidiary of Kraft Foods.
Hawaiian Punch used to be made largely from fruit concentrate. Now it is 95% high fructose corn syrup and water, and 5% fruit juice. Hooray for the corporatization of American food!
Here's Larry D. Young, CEO of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. With his pale skin, jowls, and round body, he kind of looks like "Punchy" the Hawaiian Punch mascot: