Homer Soda Company
Nehi Orange in the glass-bottle
Exclusively available for private events (weddings, office parties, BBQ, the list is endless!)
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The Chero-Cola company added Nehi Cola to its line of sodas in 1924 in order to offer a broader variety of flavors. It originally offered orange, grape, root beer, peach, and other flavors of soda. Nehi was instantly successful and outsold Chero-Cola entirely. The company changed its name to Nehi Corporation in 1928 and was listed on the New York Curb Exchange. Business went well until 1930 when a major crisis occurred. Reflecting the Great Depression, which followed with the stock market crash of October 1929, Nehi Corporation’s sales figures dropped one million dollars in 1930 from a high of $3.7 million in the previous year. Sales continued to decline until 1932, the only year in which the company had ever lost money.
By 1933, the low point had been passed, and the business was just beginning to stabilize when another tragedy struck. Claude Hatcher, the company’s president and guiding light from its formation, died suddenly December 31, 1933. Hatcher was soon replaced by H. R. Mott, vice president of the Nehi Corporation for several years beforehand, and who had been associated with the company since 1920. As new president, he was greeted with a great amount of debt. His all-consuming ambition, however, was to make the company debt-free as quickly as possible and to keep it that way. He updated operations, obtained extensions of credit, and cut expenses. Within a year, the Nehi Corporation was debt-free and ready to move ahead once more.
In the early 20th century, the advertising logo of Nehi was a picture of a seated woman’s legs, in which the skirt was high enough to show the stockings up to the knee, suggesting the phrase “knee-high”. This was referenced in Jean Shepherd’s story “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art” in the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, as well as in the film A Christmas Story, which was adapted from the book.
Robert Ripley helped the Nehi Corporation, when he advertised for them on his radio show “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” By 1940, Nehi products were available in forty-seven of the forty-eight states. In 1946, the pace for the Corporation accelerated tremendously. The company began to enhance its advertising by using celebrities. Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford (before joining the Pepsi Cola Company board of directors), Bob Hope, and many others joined in selling the products of Nehi Corporation. When World War II was over, the company and its bottlers joined whole-heartedly in a progressive program of expansion and improvement that made 1947 one of the great years in the history of the enterprise. In that year, glamorous Hedy Lamarr was pictured in point of purchase advertising signs. At that time, Nehi Corporation offered more than ten flavors. Those included Dr. Nehi, Nehi Chocolate, Nehi Root Beer, Nehi Lemonade, Nehi Wild Red, Nehi Blue Cream, and its more classic flavors Nehi Orange, Nehi Grape, and Nehi Peach. Many of these flavors were later dropped as their novelty and popularity waned.
In the 1970s, Nehi gained a reference in popular culture when the CBS television show, M*A*S*H, made a running reference to its grape flavor being the favorite drink of the company clerk, Walter (“Radar”) O’Reilly.
The fame of Nehi Cola lived on until the Nehi Corporation reformulated Chero-Cola, naming it Royal Crown Cola. “RC” Cola sold so well that the company changed its name to Royal Crown Cola Co. Internationally, Royal Crown rebranded the Nehi flavors as RCQ.