Sodas are probably the most famous beverage and are a favorite of many with an estimated consumption of at least 34 billion gallons each year. They are mainly made up of carbonated water, flavorings, and sugars. Sodas rank first as America’s favorite drink by representing a staggering 25% of the total market of beverages. In the 1990s, the consumption per capita of sodas was 49 gallons in the United States, which is 15 gallons more compared to the next favorite drink, water.
The History of Soft Drinks
The origins of this beverage extend to thousands of years ago. About two thousand years back, the Romans and Greeks discovered the medicinal traits of mineral water and used it for relaxation. This practice can still be observed today.
Around the 1700s, the Americans and Europeans started to drink the sparkling water for its therapeutic features. It was in 1809 when the first imitation of the mineral was patented in the US. The term they gave it was soda water. It was primarily made from water and sodium bicarbonate and was combined with acid to add some sparkle. Several pharmacists from both continents performed experiments with myriad elements in the quest to discover other solutions for various health illnesses. Back then, the soda water was known to relieve headaches and hangovers.
New flavors were developed constantly. Among the most famous included root bear, ginger ale, lemon, sarsaparilla, and other fruity flavors. In the 1800s, pharmacists tried adding strong stimulants to soda water, such as coca leaves and nuts. These were inspired by Bolivian-Indian workers who chewed on these leaves to relieve fatigue and by West-African workers who used the cola nuts as stimulants.
In 1886, John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, took the momentous leap of mixing coca and cola, which created what would become the most famous beverage in the world, Coca-Cola. It was advertised as both refreshing and therapeutic. After a few years, Caleb Bradham, a pharmacist from North Carolina, created the Pepsi Cola. The word Pepsi came from pepsin – an acid that helps in digestion. However, Pepsi was not advertised to have any therapeutic features.
In the 20th century, most cola industries concentrated in promoting the refreshing features of their beverages.
It wasn’t until after 1890 when automated machines were created to produce soft drinks. Manufacturers used to manufacture the products manually from bowing bottles to filling and packing. It was believed that the most innovated machine created at that time was the Crown Cap, which administered carbon dioxide into the glass bottles.
The Materials Used to Make Sodas
Soft drinks are made up of about 94% carbonated water. Carbon dioxide is responsible for the sparkle and the “bite” to the drinks. Also, it acts as a preservative. This ingredient is as efficient as it’s cost-effective, easy to liquefy, inert, and non-toxic.
Next to carbon dioxide, sugar is another major ingredient, which contributes 7% to 12% of the beverage. This ingredient can either be used in its liquid or dry form. Sugar balances the acids and flavors by adding sweetness to the drink, which is an essential factor for consumers to enjoy their beverages.
Sugar-free sodas were developed during World War II wherein there was a scarcity in sugars. Manufacturers shifted to other sweeteners, such as the saccharin. Unfortunately, this component was phased out sometime in the 1970s as it was recognized as a carcinogen. Other alternatives were then introduced, like aspartame, which was used until the 90s for diet sodas.
Other additives were added in small quantities to improve the taste, appearance, and aroma of the drinks. There are many flavors, which can either be natural or artificial. Emulsions are also used to increase the appeal of soft drinks. They are primarily made of water-based components like pectin, preservatives, gums, and oil-based liquids that include weighing agents, flavors, and colors.
Preservatives are also added to sodas to blow the growth of microorganisms and to avoid deterioration. Moreover, anti-oxidants are added like ascorbic acid and BHA to maintain the flavor and color.
How Soft Drinks Are Made
1. Water Clarification
Water clarity is imperative in making soft drinks. Impurities, like organic matter, suspended particles, and even bacteria, may have a negative effect to the color and taste of the products. Generally, they’re removed through the process of coagulation, chlorination, and filtration.
The coagulation process will involve combining a gelatinous precipitate into the water. This will absorb any suspended particles, making them larger. This will cause them to be trapped easily in the filters.
During water clarification, the alkalinity must be modified by adding lime to reach the targeted PH level.
2. Water Filtration, Sterilization, and De-chlorinating
The clarified water will then be passed through a sand filter to remove fine particles of the gelatinous material.
The sterilization process is vital to get rid of any bacteria that might degrade the quality of the color and taste of water. The water will then be pumped into a tank and a small quantity of free chlorine will be added. The now chlorinated water will stay in the tank for around two hours until the reaction is done.
After, an activated carbon filter will de-chlorinate the water and get rid of any residuals.
3. Combining the Ingredients
The flavor components and the dissolved sugar will be injected into the dosing area in a pre-determined order based on their compatibility. The elements will then be delivered into batch tanks where they will be combined carefully. The syrup can be sterilized while inside the tanks by using flash pasteurization or ultraviolet radiation. Fruit-based syrups are generally pasteurized.
The syrup and water are mixed carefully using high-end machines, which are known as proportioners. They are used to regulate the liquids’ flow rates.
4. Carbonation of the Beverages
Generally, carbonation is added to the final products. However, it can also be combined into the water earlier. How much carbon dioxide pressure is used will vary on the type of soda. For example, fruit sodas need less carbonation that other drinks, like tonics, which are designed to be diluted in other types of liquid.
The final products will then be transferred into cans or bottles at flow rates that are extremely high. The containers will be sealed right away with stoppers that are resistant to pressure. These stoppers can either be steel or tinplate crowns.
Since sodas are usually cooled during the production process, they will be placed in an area with room temperature before labeling to avoid condensation from destroying the labels. This is done usually by spraying warm water to the containers then drying them.
Labels are then placed to the bottles to provide details that include the brand and ingredients used. Other details that consumers should know are also affixed. Many labels are made from paper while some are made from plastic films. Soda cans are typically pre-printed with the product details before the filling process.
Finally, the finished products are packed into trays or cartons, ready to be shipped or delivered to distributors.