What’s the Big Deal with Big Red Soda?

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Tony Maples Photography


Like Dr Pepper, Big Red Soda is a Texas tradition that began in Waco. This carbonated concoction has a thirsty group of followers who appreciate its unusual flavor. Discover what makes this soda a unique part of Texas history.

What is Big Red Soda?

Retro Big Red Soda Ad

Photo: Facebook/Big Red

Big Red soda started out its history as Sun Tang Red Cream Soda, and those who drink it claim to taste vanilla and cream in the drink. Though many suggest the flavor attempts to recreate the sweet taste of bubble gum, it’s actually a distinctive mixture of vanilla, lemon, and orange oils with the bright red coloring. Today, many other soda companies make their own versions of a red cream soda, but Big Red soda was the first.

How It Began

Retro Big Red Soda Made with Sugar

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Just over 50 years after Dr Pepper’s creation, inventors R.H. Roark and Grover C. Thompson worked in a laboratory to create a new drink. In 1937, they hit on the formula for what would later be known as Big Red. Originally, the drink was called Sun Tang Red Cream Soda, then later Sun Tang Big Red Cream Soda in 1959. Its abbreviated name of Big Red Soda did not come into use until 1969, 32 years after its invention.

The Early Years

Retro Big Red Soda Bottle Caps

Photo: Facebook/Big Red

Initially, only central and southern portions of Texas and Louisville, Kentucky, could enjoy Big Red Soda. These were the only places this Waco-made soda was sold, but by the end of the 1970s, Big Red was making great strides in pushing its brand all across the Lone Star State and into the rest of the United States. Even Panamanians and British Colombians could enjoy Big Red Soda. This bold move on the small Texas drink’s part would allow it to remain a part of Texas culture into the next century.

Big Red Soda Today

Big Red Soda and Barbecue

Photo: Facebook/Big Red

Today, the drink maintains its status as one of the top-selling sodas in the country, and it’s especially popular in the American South, and you’ll likely see Big Red served at many Texas barbecues. The sweet flavor pairs well with the charred taste of a well-cooked brisket. But this is not the only offering you’ll find from the company that makes Big Red.

The company also makes several spin-offs such as Big Peach, Big Blue, Big Red Vanilla Float, Big Pineapple, and Big Manzana (Apple). Thanks to the efforts to spread Big Red to the rest of Texas and the nation, this drink is still around while other brands have been discontinued. If you’ve never had a Big Red, maybe you should reconsider taking a sip of this drink from Texas history.