Working on the joint venture from the Smithsonian and OIRM has brought so many local histories to light for me. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of others and the vast amount of knowledge our patrons have to share.
One of the stories we will tell for the “A Taste of Community” exhibit concerns Grapette. Originating in Camden, AR, in 1932 as Fooks Flavors, Benjamin “Tyndle” Fooks was inspired to create the ultimate grape soda because, in his opinion, nothing on the market was worth drinking. After half a dozen years and thousands of formulas, Fooks hit upon his favorite, purchasing the Grapette name (along with Orangette and Lemonette names) from Rube Goldstein for $500. It was well worth the cost.
With most soft drinks sold in 12-ounce bottles, Grapette broke the mold, selling 6-ounce, clear bottles to showcase the soda’s color. Consumers were indeed enchanted, and found the flavor was worthy of the packaging.
World War II was a time of rationing, and manufacturers were no exception. Grapette’s formula called for its sugar to be liquefied, forming a syrup. Because syrups were not rationed, Grapette’s sales soared during the war.
In the 1960s Fooks sold Grapette, which changed hands several times before a hostile takeover by PepsiCo caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC told PepsiCo to divest many of its sodas before it declared a monopoly on the market. PepsiCo sold Grapette to a company that already had a grape soda, so the name and recipe were retired…in the United States. Internationally, Grapette was still marketed as Grapette International. The international business eventually passed to the owner’s son-in-law, Brooks Rice.
Brooks did not have legal rights to the Grapette name in the United States, but sold the idea of resurrecting the soda to Sam Walton, who took him up on the offer simply because Sam loved Grapette’s flavor. By 1989, the flavor was sold under the Ozarks Farms name in Walmarts across the United States. When Sam Walton passed away, the Ozarks Farms name was changed to Sam’s Choice. In 2000, Rice finally gained rights to the Grapette name and products hit the shelves again, but exclusively at Walmart.
Today you can purchase Grapette in 2-liter bottles in Walmart. Our local Walmart also carries tiny cans of Orangette soda. The company is still owned by a Rice – David Rice. David is sending memorabilia pertaining to Grapette to OIRM in time for our January premiere of “A Taste of Community”. Our ambition is to have Grapette on hand to sell to our visitors as they enjoy the exhibit. Come by in January to see – and taste – an Arkansas native, Grapette!