Aug 13, 2010

Happy Kool-Aid Days

Oh yeah! Kool-Aid Days are held every August in Hastings, Nebraska. The birthplace of Kool-Aid.

Kool-Aid's Inventor
When Edwin E. Perkins (born January 8, 1889) was 11 years old he worked in his father's general store in Hendley, Nebraska. One day a family friend, on returning from a shopping trip to Hastings, Nebraska, introduced Edwin to a newfangled dessert they had found there. It was a powdered concentrate which came in "six delicious flavors" and it was called Jell-O.  Edwin was entranced with it and convinced his father to carry it in the store. Edwin often recounted how those "six delicious flavors" influenced his decision to get into the pre-packaged food business.

At about this time Edwin sent away for a Mixers Guide kit which beckoned it's users to become manufacturers by creating and selling their own concoctions. Which is when Edwin's fascination with chemistry began. He began making perfumes, medicines and other concoctions in his mother's kitchen. He eventually created Perkins Product Company and started selling his inventions to customers. And thus he was on his way to being a self taught chemist and budding entrepreneur.

In 1918, Edwin married his childhood sweetheart Kitty Shoemaker. Just prior to his marriage, Edwin created a product which was meant to help people kick the tobacco habit called "Nix-O-Tine Tobacco Remedy". By 1920, demand for this and other products were so high that Edwin and Kitty moved to Hastings, which had better rail service for shipping purposes.

Edwin E. Perkins
                                                                        
Kool-Aid is Born
Among his many inventions was a concentrated fruit drink syrup called "Fruit Smack". It came onto the market at about the same time as Coca Cola, and offered "six delicious flavors" (raspberry, cherry, grape, lemon, orange and root beer).  "Fruit Smack" was a seasonal item sold in the summertime. It came in 4 oz. corked bottles which families could mix with water to make an affordable pitcher of fruit drink. It was difficult to ship the bottles of syrup due to breakage and leakage, which prompted Edwin to think of his beloved Jell-O dessert. In 1927, Edwin developed a method of removing the liquid from "Fruit Smack" so the remaining powder could be re-packaged in envelopes (which he designed and printed). Edwin changed the name to "Kool-Ade" and sold it for 10 cents a package. The name was later changed, (in 1934) to "Kool-Aid".

By 1931 Kool-Aid was in such popular demand that many of Perkins Product Company's products were dropped so they could focus on the production of Kool-Aid. During the Depression the price of Kool-Aid dropped from 10 cents a package to 5 cents making it an affordable treat for most Americans. Perkins also created a Kool-Aid ice cream powder mix and Kool-Aid bubble gum, neither of which gained popularity.

Kool-Aid Joins the Jell-o Family
In 1953, Perkins announced to his staff that he was selling Kool-Aid to General Foods, the makers of Jell-O. In his announcement he commented on how fitting it was that Kool-Aid would now join Jell-O in the General Foods family.

Kool-Aid is now owned by Kraft Foods and is manufactured in Mexico.

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