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History of Soft Drinks: a Phantom That Was Rondo Cola

Updated on June 6, 2019
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of success in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, and aerospace education for Active USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Tracing the Origins of an Extinct Product

Asked recently whether I liked Rondo Cola when it was popular, I realized I had not heard of it in many years. Memories of some entertaining TV commercials for the product surfaced for me, though. The soda brand was not in our local stores in Central Ohio long enough for me to try it, so I knew little about it.

A few friends told me they thought that Coca-Cola made and bottled Rondo, so I thought I would call some bottling companies and ask questions about soft drink history to find out more.

First, I contacted Coca-Cola Company in their products division and after researching my query about old Rondo Cola, a friendly Coke representative sent me a message.

This product was called a thirst cruncher and a thirst crusher, one that men said they wanted to slam down their own throats. How comedic!
This product was called a thirst cruncher and a thirst crusher, one that men said they wanted to slam down their own throats. How comedic! | Source

Greg in the Industry and Consumer Affairs Department reported that Rondo has never been a product of the Coca-Cola Company at all! He referred me to the American Beverage Association. This was helpful, but even so, I eventually found an indirect link to Coke, and I discuss that a bit later.

Meanwhile, I found old newspaper clippings about Rondo, along with some reports and reviews by some former consumers of the phantom soft drink and will share these with you here. The first thing I learned is that the soft drink was a citrus soda and not a cola.

Rondo - The Thirst Cruncher!

— TV Commericals of the 1970s

Lightly carbonated so you can slam it down fast.

— Marketing slogan for Rondo

Who Made Rondo?

The American Beverage Association (ABA) recognizes a Big Three of carbonated soft drinks at the following companies:

  1. Coca-Cola Company
  2. PepsiCo
  3. Cadbury Schweppes' Americas Beverages

Further, ABA states that the three companies produced one Flagship Soda each, in this order Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper during the 19th century.

No mention is made on the ABA soft drink history page of Rondo.

The ABA as a group is a trade association for non-alcohol containing beverage producers and distributors, as well as related industry sectors, since 1919. Their 21st century initiatives include healthy beverages, clean water, and recycling, among other projects.

Other companies produced carbonated drinks similar to the extinct Rondo, even Coke, as shown in the photos below.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This brand is a lemon-flavored soft drink manufactured by Schweppes Australia.Solo also comes in lemon-lime flavor.This is felt by many in Australia to be the sports-energy drink equivalent of Rondo even today.OK Soda was around from 1993 - 1995. It was a citrus beverage much like Fresca, but many people called it "swamp water." It was not popular, but the commercials were funny (see a video below).
Source
This brand is a lemon-flavored soft drink manufactured by Schweppes Australia.
This brand is a lemon-flavored soft drink manufactured by Schweppes Australia. | Source
Solo also comes in lemon-lime flavor.
Solo also comes in lemon-lime flavor. | Source
This is felt by many in Australia to be the sports-energy drink equivalent of Rondo even today.
This is felt by many in Australia to be the sports-energy drink equivalent of Rondo even today. | Source
OK Soda was around from 1993 - 1995. It was a citrus beverage much like Fresca, but many people called it "swamp water." It was not popular, but the commercials were funny (see a video below).
OK Soda was around from 1993 - 1995. It was a citrus beverage much like Fresca, but many people called it "swamp water." It was not popular, but the commercials were funny (see a video below). | Source

Some Catholic nuns objected to Rondo,

stating that the can looked like a premium beer can

not fit for children.

You got to crack a Solo ...to be a Solo man!

Origins Evidence Found in 1978

Newspaper Clipping Found

"Schweppes Aims Rondo at U.S. Thirsts; Exhaustive Testing." The New York Times, Business & Finance; Page 29. Author Robert D. Hersey, Jr.; November 11, 1978.

As of November 1978, it was reported in The New York Times that Rondo was outselling Coca-Cola in cans in Kansas City, Missouri. The leadership of Schweppes, stated that the company tested the drink they called Rondo for two years and then went "all-out" in marketing the product successfully.

Schweppes, or Cadbury-Schweppes today, created and sold Rondo Citrus Soda. The beverage was marketed effectively beginning in 1978 and into the mid-1980s, according to the memories of individuals that enjoyed it. The most recent report I have found of it on a store shelf in America is 1983 in Denver, Colorado. Occasionally, a empty can may be sold on eBay.

Barring any future reports to the contrary, it seems that Rondo lasted from 1978 through 1983, or about five years.

Coke and Scweppes

Schweppes created Rondo Citrus Soda. Interestingly, before it merged to become Cadbury-Scweppes, Cadbury's, and finally Cadbury, was owned by Coca-Cola in London and its history is on the Coke-UK website.

Schweppes made its first lemony beverages in 1883!
Schweppes made its first lemony beverages in 1883! | Source

Coke USA Imitates Rondo

A soda like carbonated citrus drinks of other companies but bottled by Coca-Cola to target Generation X was OK Soda. The humorous noir-parody TV commercials for the products in 1994 included redacted documents, secret codes, a hotline number, and other gimmicks.

Everything is going to be OK.

— Marketing slogan for OK

Sample Memories of Rondo

  • Military Veteran: We drank so many cans, we built a towering pyramid of empties in our transient barracks quarters...Rondo...perfect compliment to a "San Francisco burrito" of beans, rice, meat, salsa and cheese in a large flour tortilla, all wrapped in foil. [Note: sounds like Chipotle restaurant!]
  • Adult Male: "Rondo - The Thirst Crusher" (advertising slogan). It was less carbonated "so you could slam it down fast!" (another slogan). A couple of those, a Marathon bar (candy), and playing Star Castle (video game) in 7-11 is how I spent my 'tween years.
  • Australia: Rondo is called Solo now. Solo is common in Australia. Some consumers remember Solo as early as 1973 in Australia.
  • Australia: The US makes Coolah Energy with the slogan "Energy From Down Under" and claims Solo to be the energy drink's inspiration. Coolah Energy is a Dr. Pepper product. It cost over $2.00 per can in 2008.
  • Cartoonist Jeff Swenson: "On the Rondo can I see "Cadbury Pty Ltd in Australia, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper/Seven Up."

Miscellaneous Comments and Observations

  • Rondo was last seen in Denver, Colorado by one gentleman around 1983.

  • Light flavored, citrus soda - I would chug the stuff all day when I was around 11 or 12 years old.

  • A male skier in a commercial skiied on grass and then drank a Rondo and crushed the can shouting "Rondo - The Thirst Crusher." (This may have been around the time that the British skier called Eddie the Eagle began training on grassy slopes in England to prepare for a 1988 Winter Olympics ski jump competition.)

  • "As kids in Northern Ireland we bought a can of Coke and a can of Fanta Orange and mixed them to make Muddy Ducks." OK Soda (from Coca-Cola for a few months in 1994) is a Muddy Duck. [Note: Some think this is also Rondo but Rondo was lemon, not orange.]

  • Rondo gave away mini-Frisbees with the Rondo logo imprinted on them.

  • One Rondo commercial featured an Asian martial artist practicing long staff techniques in a stream, chugging a Rondo and shouting the Rondo slogan.

  • Nuns in a Catholic school objected to the black and yellow Rondo can, because it looked like a beer can.

  • One collector has an original 12-oz bottle from Rondo and a Rondo belt buckle he found on EBay.

Do you have any fond memories of soft drinks no longer produced? Please add them to the comments below.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

Comments, Collections, and News of Rondo Cola

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I like to add some seltzer to grapfruit juice - it's not Rhondo, but its pretty good. I agree about the sugared drinks. Thanks for writing!

    • profile image

      bikeamtn 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the article - Never was a 'pop' drinker but when the subject comes up, it is 'Rondo' that I always highlight in conversation. It was the best soda in the US market. I think it had very little sweeter (if any), all natural citrus and lightly carb'ed. It was the only 'soda-pop' drink I purchased all the days it was available and was upsetting when it disappeared. This happens too often to great things in the US when big business is involved. Now we are faced with a diabetic, obese threatened society, shameful. "A salute to RONDO"

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Sounds collectible to me, especially upside down tab open. Local auction houses and antique stores or even a Coca Cola memorabilia collector should be able to tell you how much it's worth. Good keepsake!

    • profile image

      Vic 

      9 years ago

      This should throw a wrench in the "Rondo" thread. I worked in a conveinience store in Dresser, Wisconsin from 1978-1982. I found a strange can of Rondo where the can was upside down (tab to open was on the bottom of the can). Thinking it might be collectible some day I saved it and still have this metal, not aluminum can. The can reads "CANNED UNDER AUTHORITY OF RONDO BEVERAGE CORPORATION, STAMFORD, TC 06905 BY COCA-COLA BOTTLING MIDWEST INC., ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA 55121". The ingredients show "Contains carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, sodium citrate, natural citrus flavor, sodium benzoate (as a preservative), and artificial color".

      I wonder if it is collectible?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for adding those memories; it gives us a bette picture of the era.

    • profile image

      guest 

      9 years ago

      To the best of my memory, there was also a Rondo TV commercial featuring a man climbing a mountain (working up a Rondo thirst). When he reached the top of the mountain, he popped open a Rondo, guzzled it down ("fast"), and crushed the can. Also, to the best of my memory, this was one of the first soft drinks that was packaged in aluminum cans, as opposed to tin cans, thus making it quite easy to crush the empty cans. Of course I was just a kid at the time, so the aluminum can memory may not be completely accurate, but the mountain climber commercial was definitely a real thing.

    • profile image

      Craig 

      9 years ago

      Anyone selling a can please let me know. I'd love to buy one for my collection!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I have seen it around here and ther in convenient stores, but not a lot of it. I think it is similar, but not the same recipe.

    • profile image

      Scott 

      9 years ago

      I loved Rondo, and rued the day it was no longer available. If Solo is the same recipe, I'd be willing to try it. Can you get it in the USA?

    • profile image

      B Cantrell, LA 

      10 years ago

      I have several of the green Rondo bottles. Anyone know what they are worth?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      a_cmc-- I have seen Solo in certain gas station convenience stores in the South US a few years ago.

      Denise - I've only seen the can, but a bottle is possible.

    • profile image

      denise Sanford 

      10 years ago

      Did it ever come in a green bottle I have for empties but no ingredients or company other then Rondo Beverage on bottle.

    • profile image

      a_cmc_2b, MS 

      10 years ago

      I grew up in West Tennessee and remember Rondo very well. Was always curious as to where it went. Thanks for posting this info...

      Can Solo be bought in the US?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      It sounds like it might be similar to Quench, which had graprefruit instead of lemon. I liked Quench very much and cannot find it often now, either.

      When did Mountain Dew come out? Rondo may have been pulled for future use in the energy drink market and in the market competing with Mr. Dew (?). That's just a guess. I am suspicious about Coolah Energy displaying the names of all the Big Three on it's label. I think it's defintely been marketing in action that Rondo was pulled. Again, just a guess.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      11 years ago from The Ozarks

      Yeah, Coolah Energy would be good to try, but what was good about Rondo at the time was that it was an alternative to a Cola with more natural zing than a Sprite. If they added caffeine then that's a little like cheating.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I uaually would never spend $2.00 on a can of energy drink, but if I see Coolah Energy, I must try one and see what it's all about. I bet it's a reworking of Rondo with added vitamins (maybe) and caffeine.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      11 years ago from Florida

      I have never even heard of Rondo...hmmm...it was very interesting!!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      If anyone that reads this has an old can from Rondo, please list the ingredients in this comments section - Thank you, we'll appreciate you!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I can't find a good list of ingredients, but many people say it was made with lemon - Hence, the yellow can.

      However, in some areas of the US, all carbonated drinks are called "Cola", just as in some parts of the Southern US, all soft drinks are called "Coke." So that's why there are references to "Rondo Cola" on discussion boards.

      In America you may hear "Orange Cola" in some parts and no cola is present with the orange :) 

      I have no hint yet as to why it was discontinued. However, if Coolah Energy is over $2.00 a can, is selling well, and is quite similar to Rondo, the bottlers would not make a cheaper version perhaps. Don't know yet.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      11 years ago from The Ozarks

      Patty, thanks for answrering my request. Great info! I especially like the photo of the can. We had lots of Rondo cans in our garage at one time, but they all got thrown out before I realized they would be collector's items. One day it was on the shelves in every store, and the next it was gone. What happened? Why was it discontinued?

      I didn't know it wasn't a Coca-Cola product. Thanks for clearing that up.

      Also, I wasn't aware that anybody called it "Rondo Cola." It wasn't a Cola. It was a citrus drink, and I think it contained no caffeine. It was tart and lightly carbonated, and I think it used real sugar rather than corn syrup. Does you research square with that description of the ingredients?

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