History of Soft Drinks: a Phantom That Was Rondo Cola
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
- 10 defunct sodas we wish we could still drink: MeTV
- Bellis, M. Introduction to Pop - The History of Soft Drinks; ThoughtCo.com; 2018.
- Favorite Discontinued Sodas; RoadFood.com.
- Fletcher, J. Schweppshire, Schweppsylvania, Schweppervescence: The 200-year history of Schweppes advertising; Coca-Cola.co.uk, 2016.
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