Born in Detroit, Is Vernors Ginger Ale Still Made in Michigan?
There are some items that are just so uniquely Michigan; Salt and vinegar potato chips, (back in the day) it was Stroh's Beer, even Detroit-style Coney dogs. And one soft drink that is truly Michigan, that's Vernors.
This week marked the 37th anniversary of the closing of the Vernors bottling plant on Woodward Ave. in Detroit in 1985. But beyond the history, I wondered, is Vernors still made and bottled in Michigan. And the answer is, apparently, yes.
As with a lot of these type of questions, you have to muddle through some corporate gobbledy-goo to figure it all out.
We start with some history first. Vernors was created by a pharmacist in Detroit, James Vernor. In fact, several of the biggest sodas were created by pharmacists. Up until about the last 50 years, many pharmacies had soda fountain/counters, and from this came the most famous concoction, Coca-Cola, invented in Atlanta by James Stith Pemberton. Pepsi-Cola was invented in North Carolina as "Brad's Drink" by another pharmacist, Caleb Bradham.
Vernor's predates both those. According to the Detroit Historical Society, James Vernor,
"James Vernor began his career as an errand boy at Higby & Stearns Drug Store in 1858, later becoming a junior clerk. Experimenting with a medicinal tonic of vanilla and spices, adding ginger to calm the stomach, he left the mixture in an oak barrel when he went to serve in the Civil War in 1862. The popular story is that when Vernor returned from the war, he opened the barrel and was surprised by its delicious contents. The beverage had a zesty, sweet, gingery flavor that was accentuated by the wood’s aging process. However another claim, backed by a family member, is that Vernor did not create the formula for his drink until after the Civil War." - Detroit Historical Society
The soda became so popular that Vernor started selling it to other pharmacy/soda fountains, and then to keep up with demand, built the bottling plant on Woodward. Vernor died in 1927, and the family sold the company to a investment group in 1966. Since then, the company has been sold several times, going from American Consumer Products to United Brands and then to A&W Beverages. It was bought in 1993 by Cadbury-Schweppes and is part of Dr. Pepper Snapple, one of the nation’s largest beverage producers.
Is Vernors still made in Michigan. Yes, sources say it's bottled in Vermont, in Texas but the "flagship" is a plant in Holland, Michigan.
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