“Me and my RC! Me and my RC!..What’s good enough for anyone else, ain’t good enough for me.”
Coke and Pepsi may be the undisputed leaders in the cola beverage market, but a third option has existed since 1934, one that its loyal following has always insisted is the best of the three. Its full name is Royal Crown Cola, but most know it simply as RC Cola. And, though it certainly can’t compete with the advertising budgets of the other two behemoths, RC has managed to hold its own quite nicely for over 70 years.
RC Cola was invented by a pharmacist in Georgia in 1905. If that story sounds familiar, it might be because another Georgian pharmacist, John Pemberton, invented Coca-Cola, although his concoction preceeded RC by twenty years. Royal Crown already produced a successful line of fruit-flavored sodas, called Nehi, for over a decade before introducing their new cola product to the public. Decidedly different, and to some a superior product, the soda found a respectable fanbase of its own, especially in the southern states. During the 50s, another local product called a MoonPie could be purchased alongside an RC Cola for a discounted price, a combination that would forever be known as the “Working man’s lunch” in the South. The marriage of these products remains strong to this day.
Around the same time that MoonPies and RC became a staple, the company forever changed the beverage industry in 1958 by offering the first diet cola, Diet Rite. The competition soon followed. RC is also the first company to make its product available in a can. And, in keeping in line with their tradition for innovation, RC introduced the first caffeine-free beverage in 1980, RC 100. Furthermore, after Coke and Pepsi both began using the cheaper and flavor-altering high fructose corn syrup, RC responded with a premium version of their soda, called Royal Crown Draft Cola, which used only pure cane sugar, filtered water, and imported kola nut. A true delight to the palette of the cola connoisseur, it has sadly disappeared from store shelves in recent years (unless you happen to live in New Zealand).
Throughout the years, RC has benefited from some clever and memorable marketing campaigns. Film Noir actress Lizabeth Scott hawked the soda in the 40s, Jim Henson provided the puppets for a 60s ad campaign, and RC was the official cola of the New York Mets from the 60s-80s, with noted pitcher Tom Seaver touting the product alongside his wife. But certainly the most memorable was the “Me and My RC” campaign from the 70s, complete with a jingle that could haunt your brain for days on end. One commercial in particular featured a very young Sharon Stone, dutifully delivering a pizza on a skateboard.
The underdog of the cola world, RC has miraculously held its own for seven decades and counting. Moon Pies and product innovations aside, it has a loyal and respectable fan base that insists it’s the best of the three. That should keep it on store shelves for many years to come.
If you always liked RC a little better than the competition, perhaps even have fond memories of washing down a MoonPie with this celebrated soda, we welcome your thoughts and recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this undeniably resilient beverage.