Until the 1980s, commercial-watching consumers could catch the striped-shirt wearing mascot, Punchy, popping the unsuspecting tourist Opie/Oaf after offering him a nice Hawaiian Punch. Punchy’s fisticuff days are a thing of the past, but that ruby-red concoction many of us have grown to love over the years remains as popular as ever. For over 60s years, Hawaiian Punch has set the standard for fruit punch flavor using Polynesian flavors such as pineapple, guava, papaya and passion fruit (as well as other less-exotic additions, such as apple, orange and apricot), packing quite the punch for fans and aficionados of this luscious libation throughout the years.
A.W. Leo, Tom Yates and Ralph Harrison are credited with creating the recipe for Hawaiian Punch in a converted garage in Fullerton, California for use as a new flavor to be added to their line of ice cream toppings, Pacific Citrus Products Company. It was called “Leo’s Hawaiian Punch” and customers soon discovered that the syrup was good on its own, mixed with water. To the dismay of Hawaiian Punch’s growing fan base, however, it was unavailable for direct purchase.
In 1946, ownership changed hands and quart bottles of the concentrate went up for sale in grocery stores across the west. Its popularity continued to rise, and in 1950 they offered a ready-to-drink version of the red Hawaiian Punch in the standard juice container of yesteryear – the 46-ounce can (If you remember the cans, you probably also remember opening them with the pointy can/bottle opener, just don’t forget to make the second little hole on the opposite side). By 1955, Hawaiian Punch was a brand name recognized nationwide, with kids and adults alike guzzling the refreshing beverage.
In 1961, the infamous Punchy was created, skyrocketing to success as an icon for Hawaiian Punch. The first commercial with Punchy aired on The Tonight Show with Jack Parr in 1962, and grabbed rave reviews. After the commercial aired, Parr even said, “Let’s run that again… the second time for free!” Kids identified with Punchy’s silly nature, and with his famous catch phrase, “How about a nice Hawaiian Punch?”
During the late 70s and early 80s, the Osmonds did a series of five commercials for Hawaiian Punch, bringing a sense of maturity to the drink that had been around for over four decades. Throughout the 80s, Punchy was still around but keeping a low profile as some parents had become outraged over what they saw as promoting violence to children. Hawaiian Punch continued their more adult approach with ads featuring sailboats and tropical settings. It wasn’t until the 1990s when Punchy returned (in a less violent role) with a newer, more exciting set of commercials touting “Punch! Punch! How ‘bout it?”
Luckily, Hawaiian Punch is still available just about everywhere. Its flavor is unforgettable and certain to rekindle a youthful memory or two of a hot summer day satiated by a tall cold glass of delicious red punch that made you feel as if you were in a tropical paradise. If you were a fan of of the drink over the years, or if you just miss those great old commercials, we welcome your thoughts in our comments section.