The Most Popular Soda from When You Were a Kid

Updated: Feb. 13, 2024

You might remember drinking Mr. Pibb—or were you a kid when Mello Yello was invented? Take a look back at 80 years of soda pop trends.

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Saunton, Devon, UK - 15th June 2019: World War 2 reenactment (D-day) weekend. A period WW2 wooden crate depicting Coca Cola attached to the side of a period WW2 vehicle
Simon J Beer/Shutterstock

1941: Coca-Cola

That’s right, this classic soda brand was just as popular in the ’40s as it is today. At the beginning of World War II, the Coca-Cola company distributed soda to men and women who served, and over the course of the decade, employed hundreds of people in its bottling plants. For inquiring minds who want to know the real flavor difference between Pepsi and Coca-Cola, this is it.

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Vintage Nehi Orange Soda Porcelain Advertising Door Push Drink Sign
Via eBay

1946: Nehi Cola

Developed in the 1920s, Nehi Cola experienced a brief surge in popularity before the Great Depression hit. Barely surviving the decade, Nehi Cola—owned by RC Cola—made its way back into the mainstream thanks to Hollywood, as it was featured in several films and endorsed by a number of popular celebrities at the time.

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12" SQUIRT SODA POP Sign with Climbing Squirt Boy modern retro
Via eBay

1950: Squirt

This citrus soda was invented in the 1930s, but became popular in the 1950s as a cocktail mixer. We absolutely love the use of soda as a mixer—especially in any mixed drinks that are easy to make. This brand is still in circulation today, but it doesn’t have quite the popularity it once did in the ’50s.

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Life Magazine Ad NO-CAL CITRUS Soda 1968 Ad

1952: No-Cal

Did you know the first diet soda was invented in 1952? We’re living in the future with the variety of Diet Coke flavors available now, but the first sugar-free soda was No-Cal. It eventually led to a series of copycat sodas, like Diet Sprite. We tasted and found the best off-brand sodas for you.

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1954: RC Cola

Pepsi and Coca-Cola have been rivals since the late 1800s, but in the early 1900s, a new challenger—RC Cola—arose. It never achieved the glory of its larger competitors, but it made a big splash in the ’50s. It was the first soda to be packaged and sold in an aluminum can.

See what brand won big in our cola taste test.

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1955: Fanta

Fanta was developed by the Coca-Cola company during World War II, but it didn’t catch on in the United States until the mid-’50s and ’60s. In 1955, Coca-Cola relaunched Fanta to wild success.

Don’t miss the best regional sodas from every state.

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Vintage Wooden Pepsi-Cola and Hires Root Beer crates sit atop a freezer in a local grocery store in a mountain town
Rick Beauregard/Shutterstock

1960: Hires Root Beer

This delicious vintage blend has been around since the late 1800s, and it remained a family-owned business until the early 1960s. In the ’50s and ’60s, Hires was best-known for its advertisements. Sorry Don Draper, but Charles Hires beat you to the soda market. If you can’t get ahold of a Hires Root Beer, satisfy your craving with this winning brand.

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1961: Sprite

Sprite was initially released as a competitor to 7UP. But demand quickly exploded and it remains one of the most popular soda choices available today. It enjoyed an added resurgence in the 1980s and early ’90s when it hit its advertising stride with catchy jingles.

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1963: TAB

Chances are, the first thing you picture when you see the word TAB is the hot pink can with white text. TAB was the Coca-Cola company’s first sugar-free soda. That’s right, Diet Coke wasn’t invented until 1982 (spoiler alert), but TAB remained sought-after in the ’60s and ’70s.

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1964: Mountain Dew

This citrus soda remains the top in its class and has enjoyed this status since the 1960s. Mountain Dew has released dozens of spin-off flavors that live on with its ardent fan base, including Code Red, Baja Blast and several mystery flavors. They’ve even brought back flavors from decades ago—like Mtn Dew Pitch Black. These flavors were, of course, not available in the 1960s.

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1966: Fresca

The Coca-Cola Company had already released TAB to rave reviews, and they started producing a second sugar-free soda just three years later. Fresca was like a marriage of Sprite meets TAB and a favorite until mid-decade.

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1972: Mr. Pibb

OK, are you ready for the most hilarious soda fact of all time? Mr. Pibb was initially released as “Peppo.” The name didn’t stick—PepsiCo was sued for copyright infringement by Dr. Pepper and the courts thankfully agreed. Mr. Pibb was born.

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Lemonade. Drink with fresh lemons. Lemon cocktail with juice and ice.
Sea Wave/Shutterstock

1978: Quirst

This soda brand was tastier than its name implies, but that didn’t stop it from having an incredibly short shelf life. Quirst was meant to be a lemonade soda, which honestly sounds pretty good, but evidently didn’t do too well. We’re guessing this Dr. Pepper Cream Soda will go over big, though.

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1979: Mello Yello

While Coca-Cola has remained the go-to cola over the decades, the company could never quite top Pepsi’s insanely popular citrus soda, Mountain Dew. In the late 1970s, Coca-Cola released Mello Yello as a contender, and while the brand has remained active (and well-loved), it never reached the same level as Mountain Dew.

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1981: New York Seltzer

We are just as obsessed with sparkling water as the next person, but it turns out one soda brand in the 1980s predicted the resurgence of tasty seltzer—New York Seltzer. This non-caffeinated beverage was very popular in the ’80s but was ultimately discontinued in 1994. However, New York Seltzer came back in 2015 and now sells 11 flavors of seltzer water for you to enjoy.

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1980's PLASTIC CAN Diet Coke Coca Cola Pull Tab Soda Can Columbus, GA

1982: Diet Coke

Knowing that Coca-Cola and Pepsi were invented in the 1880s, are you shocked to learn Diet Coke didn’t come for another 100 years? We couldn’t believe it, especially considering Diet Coke remains one of the top-selling beverages in the world to this day.

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1984: Slice

Pepsi released Slice in the mid-’80s as a new fruit-based line of sodas. Flavors included grape, pineapple, strawberry and the most iconic—orange. The drink did well during its first few years on the market, but slowly began declining in sales until it was ultimately given the heave-ho in the 2000s.

Is Slice launching a comeback?

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1985: Jolt

There’s not much guesswork on how this caffeinated beverage would make you feel. Think of Jolt as the 5-hour energy battery of the ’80s. You may not see Jolt in stores anymore, but it is still available in select markets across the world.

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90s Wild Cherry Pepsi Can Empty
Via eBay

1988: Wild Cherry Pepsi

From the mid-’80s all the way through mid-2000s, soda brands began experimenting with adding flavors to their base colas, with varying degrees of success. We’re happy that Wild Cherry Pepsi has stuck around over the years! RIP to the Pepsi experiments that didn’t make the cut (here’s looking at you, Pepsi Blue).

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SEPTEMBER 25 2017 - MINNEAPOLIS, MN: Crystal Pepsi plastic soda bottles on the store shelves for sale. This soda flavor was originally sold in the early 1990s, and brought back for nostalgia ; Shutterstock ID 721834738

1992: Crystal Pepsi

Ask anyone who was around in the early ’90s if they tried Crystal Pepsi and you’ll get a flash of wide eyes and a nod of recognition. It’s hard to believe this drink was only around for a few years.

See what iconic American foods and beverages define each decade.

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1997: Orbitz

Can you imagine anything more appetizing than a soda filled with tiny beads? No? Well, that may be why this product had an incredibly short shelf life. Orbitz burst onto the scene in the late 1990s and disappeared just as quickly. It was one of those novelty drinks that everyone wanted to try. But as it turns out, they just wanted to try it once.

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(1) 16 oz Can of Surge Soda - Sold Out- Limited Release

1998: Surge

Reminiscent of the playful and vibrant colors introduced by popular ’90s shows on Nickelodeon, this bright green can gained a cult following during its limited run. It was discontinued in 2003 but has since been reintroduced in select markets.