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Sunkist is the name of a brand of orange-flavored soft drink launched in 1978. It was first licensed by Sunkist Growers to General Cinema Corporation, which was the leading independent bottler of Pepsi-Cola products at the time. The soft drink was the idea of Mark Stevens, who foresaw the potential based on market research which indicated that, worldwide, orange was the third best selling soft drink flavor (largely due to The Coca-Cola Company’s Fanta brand).
After extensive R&D during 1977 and early 1978, in which research was conducted on taste, color and carbonation levels, Sunkist made a grand introduction in New York (interestingly by franchising it to The Coca-Cola Bottling Company of New York, where Edward F. O’Reilly was president). At the time of introduction, Sunkist Soft Drinks had only five key employees (Mark Stevens, President; Peter Murphy, VP Sales; Dr. John Leffingwell, VP R &D; Ray Sissom, VP Finance; and Jim DeDreu, NE Regional Manager). It went national soon thereafter by being franchised mainly to leading Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola bottlers. The advertising was “fun, sun and the beach” using TV and radio commercials based on the Beach Boys’ hit song “Good Vibrations” as the brand’s theme. By 1981, Sunkist Orange Soda had become the #1 orange soda in the USA and the 10th best selling soft drink. Unlike many other competing orange sodas, Sunkist contains caffeine.
In late 1984, Sunkist Soft Drinks was sold to Del Monte. Since 1987, it has been produced by Cadbury Schweppes under license, presently through its Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages subsidiary. It is still the most popular orange soda in the United States. Sunkist (as a carbonated soft drink) is sold in the UK by Vimto Soft Drinks under license from Sunkist Growers.