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Saturday Rant: Dublin Dr Pepper

I’ve loved Dr Pepper my entire life. When I was young, around 6, my sister, Laura, would show off one of my tricks—I’d go to the restaurant that she worked at with her while she was off work, when asked what I wanted to drink, my response would be “What the doctor ordered!”.

For most of my life, Dr Pepper or, in more recent time, one of the off-shoots, would be my soda of choice.

News articles are still, days later, being published around the quick death of one of the most beloved variants of Dr Pepper: Dublin Dr Pepper.

For those out of the loop and under a rock, so-called “Dublin Dr Pepper” is the same Dr Pepper made everywhere else, except using pure Imperial sugar instead of the now-default high-fructose corn syrup. In the 1980s or so, when the rest of the beverage world switched over to HFCS, the first Dr Pepper bottling company in little Dublin, TX decided to continue making the product with real sugar.

The variation became a cult success. I was introduced to it by my band director in high school. She’d, on a regular basis, make a 300-mi round trip to Dr Pepper’s mecca and purchase a few cases of the drink. A few lucky souls in band were able to get a few ounces of the sugary sweetness from her.

To settle a lawsuit, Dr Pepper acquired the rights to sell Dr Pepper from the little bottler, in short ending the only mainstream drink bottled by them.

The lawsuit, I admit, at face value, was legit. Dr Pepper (corporate) claimed that the Dr Pepper Bottling Company of Dublin violated their bottling agreement by diluting the trademark of Dr Pepper, by selling the drink under the name “Dublin Dr Pepper”, and for violating the territorial aspect of the contract, selling outside their authorized area (e.g. I’m thinking how Galaxy Cafe in Austin had “Dublin Dr Pepper” on tap).

I don’t know how the agreement came to pass. There simply had to be a better solution than end production of the “vast majority” of the small bottler’s revenue source (as corporate admits), in all likelihood, beginning the slow death of “Dublin Bottling Works”, as it will be known now, and the decline of the small town of Dublin.

Dr Pepper’s official response to my inquiry for more information tried to assure me that I can still get the same beverage in certain areas around Dublin (no response on my follow-up about if Austin would have continued access to the sugared version). Honestly, I couldn’t care less about that anymore; I’m upset that this is yet another example of a corporation going overboard destroying the fabric of a community. Dublin’s bottling efforts didn’t die out because of lack of customers or them not respond to the needs of their clientele, it was an execution of a small business by their big brother corporation.

(Quick aside: Corporate calls the variation “Heritage Dr Pepper”. Maybe they should look at doing a little marketing toward the segment that rejects HFCS. Jason’s Deli, for example, makes a marketing point out of their decision not to include HFCS in any of their food products).

Ever read Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax“? While that’s more of a tail of businesses ignoring the environment around them, but perhaps because it is one of Olivia’s current favorites, I draw a parallel: the little guys that have been around long before the corporate structure are dismissed and ran out of town because “business is business”.

If the Dr Pepper corporate violated some law and were busted by the FDA or whomever, would the sentence be the termination of production of their primary product? No way.

Dublin’s plant, yes, may have violated some terms. I don’t know what their contract says or what the local plant was thinking when it did those alleged actions. Perhaps, yes, something needed to change to “protect trademark” or keep other bottlers happy (which is quite understandable). The sentence imposed is too harsh. There had to be a different solution. Dublin just isn’t another bottling plant. It is more of a Dr Pepper town than Waco, where the drink was invented. Hell, for a week each year, the town renames itself as “Dr Pepper, Texas” and throws a huge birthday party for the bottling company that is mostly free to thank the loyal fans of the bottling company and the corporate parent, per the city’s press release.

Additionally, the cult status of Dublin Dr Pepper led to me choosing Dr Pepper more often in other situations. At a gas station on a long drive, I was more likely to pick Dr Pepper over a Coke or Pepsi product because of the connection I felt to the brand. The brand that now rips the heart out of little towns less than 3,000 whose bottler accounted for less than 1% of all their product produced.

In short, screw you Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Dr Pepper is dead to me now. I’m leaving the possibility they can still make this right, but it will be a very long time before I purchase a Dr Pepper or Snapple product.

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

4 replies on “Saturday Rant: Dublin Dr Pepper

This is really sad.  I had heard about the lawsuit, but not the resolution.   I know they also do a bike ride, the Tour de Pepper supporting Kids Across Cultures. http://www.tourdepepper.com/ 

The next race is scheduled in June.  Taken from their website:

“Following your ride, join in the festivities of Dublin Dr Pepper Days
and help celebrate the 120th birthday of the oldest Dr Pepper bottling
plant in the world.  Family friendly fun and all the free original
recipe Dr Pepper you can drink at every rest station and the finish
line. Spend a day with us and Ride The Pepper!”

Sad.

If you’re ever in the mood for a good copy cat.  H-E-B’s Dr. B with Pure Cane Sugar tastes pretty darn close.  Patrick G. introduced Steven to them, and he buys them all the time now.  

I got Dublin Dr Pepper at Pita Pit yesterday mostly because of this post. (I also just wanted caffeine.) It was good, but since I switched to Coke Zero permanently, the real sugar tasted too sweet. I’ve gotten used to the aspartame aftertaste, I guess. And Diet Dr Pepper remains the first good-tasting diet soda and my go-to in restaurants that haven’t fallen in love with Coke Zero as I have.

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