One of Atlanta's most prominent merchants during the
reconstruction days of the early 1890's was Lee Hagan of Hagan &
Company, a thriving grocery and confectionery store located in what is
virtually the center of present-day Atlanta. In 1885 Mr. Hagan
purchased a bottling plant consisting of one foot-powered bottling
machine. Bottles were washed by hand in a tub, and deliveries were
made on foot or with two one-mule wagons.
Mr. G. T. Dodd, a wholesale grocer, joined the bottling business,
forming the company of Hagan and Dodd. They in turn founded the Red
Rock Company in 1885 with Dodd as president. It was Dodd who first
introduced Red Rock Ginger Ale to the wholesale grocery trade for
distribution, making it well-known in the south. The ginger ale had a
spicy flavor from capsicum, an ingredient derived from hot peppers.
Mothers also used it to calm their family's upset stomachs and to
clear stuffy noses.
In 1894, Mr. Hagan produced a cola extract under the copyright name of
"Afri-Cola", which became successfully bottled for a number
of years. Thereafter, the name Red Rock with its lettering style was
trade-marked in the late 1890's and the trademark was officially filed
with the US Patent Office in 1903. Red Rock was also the first
carbonated beverage business to use the traditional red background
with white lettering and used the first motor truck to distribute
carbonated beverages in Atlanta in 1908. In 1929, Dodd purchased
Hagan's interest in the Red Rock Company and appointed A. J. Orme and
W. C. Satterthwait to head the new organization.
Over the years the company experimented with many flavors. In response
to popular demand, Red Rock Cola was introduced in 1938. The public
accepted it immediately and all available supplies were instantly
exhausted. The word spread like wildfire and in very little time, Red
Rock Bottlers Inc. was formed in order to begin a network of Red Rock
bottlers all across the country. Beginning in 1938 the franchises that
were granted quickly established Red Rock as a leader in the 12oz
field with over 200 bottlers and by 1947, was bottled in 47 states.
But by 1958, there were 107 bottlers throughout the country using Red
Rock Cola concentrate. Sixty-six of there were under The Red Rock
franchise, while another 41 bottlers were marketing the product under
their own private brand.
Red Rock even made it outside the US. Red Rock of South America was
incorporated in 1946 to bottle and distribute the Red Rock brand of
beverages in South American countries. Red Rock sodas were distributed
in Venezuela, Panama, Trinidad, Puerto Rico and Cuba. The Red Rock
Cola Bottling Company of Cuba was located in Sancti Spiritus. Red Rock
of South America ceased operations in 1952 and the Cuban bottling
plant ceased operations in 1953.
The selling point to Red Rock Cola was the fact that it was low in
cost to make and still high in flavor. Fred L. Cannon, who purchased
the company in 1955, claimed that Red Rock Cola was one of the finest
cola beverages in the country and the most economical to bottle. At
the time, he called it "The Million Dollar Cola."
Red Rock is the only soft drink beverage ever endorsed by Babe Ruth
and posters were made of the endorsement in 1939. There is only one,
perhaps two, original posters in existence today, and one is framed
and mounted on the wall of its owner in Medina, Ohio.
It is not clear what happened to The Red Rock Company after the late
50's. Fortunately the original formula was preserved and remains in
the hands of a major producer of concentrate for soft drinks,
International Flavors. Inc, in Indianapolis, Indiana. As a result, it
has become the foundation of a new string of Red Rock distributors.
International Flavors, Inc. produces concentrates for many other
soft-drink labels as well.
One such example is Big Springs, Inc., the Coca-Cola Bottling Company
in Huntsville, Alabama. In the 1980s, they were looking for a private
label soda to bottle independently when the Coca-Cola Company changed
many of its bottling companies to distributors. They found their
answer to a private label in Red Rock Cola, becoming a primary
producer and bottler of Red Rock Beverages today. When Coca-Cola in
Atlanta learned of this, they threatened to pull Huntsville's license
for distribution of Coca-Cola. Huntsville's Coca-Cola, being one of
the first companies to Coca-Cola, receiving their franchise in 1902,
"grand-fathered in". They could bottle and ship Red
Rock to other distributors and wholesaler's warehouses.
Distribution problems were settled by using independent distributors.
JCM Beverages, Inc., in Huntsville, Alabama, distributes to several
different carriers and major food distributors, such as Piggly Wiggly,
etc. and is licensed to distribute Red Rock in a five state region.
Licenses must come from Universal Flavors, Inc. and are also generally
required to gain approval from JCM Beverages.
Clayton Distributing Co., a small, local soft drink and juice
distribution company in Atlanta, owns the franchise rights in northern
Georgia and parts of Florida for Red Rock. Brothers Charles and Paul
Redd have been partners and owners of Clayton since they purchased the
company from the W. L. Clayton family in 1989. Before that, Charles
worked as a CPA and Paul had a marketing background. Their father had
worked for the Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Co. for 35 years and Charles
had worked his way through college at both The Coca Cola Co. and
PepsiCo Inc. One summer he worked for Coke during the week and Pepsi
on the weekends. Paul worked in management at Coke, Pepsi and
Southeast Atlantic Corp. before starting his own one-man soft-drink
distribution company, which later merged to become part of Clayton
Distributing. They distribute Red Rock Cola in a bottle with a
nostalgic label, echoing the history of the drink. Along with Red
Rock, Clayton distributes Welch's, Mistic, Jolt Cola, Gatorade and
American West Beverages Inc, a sub-licensee of JCM Beverages, has
taken Red Rock Cola one step further for the collector with limited
edition bottles and cans. A four bottle collector's series with Babe
Ruth's name and image on the label, a reproduction of the original
endorsement, contains the original Red Rock Cola concentrate formula.
American West is the only company in the world with the rights to use
the official Babe Ruth 1995 anniversary seals, logo, image, and
endorsements of Red Rock Cola on a beverage container. The series has
a production limitation and every bottle is printed with the number of
bottles issued for that edition. There is also a fifty bottle
collector's series for each of the fifty states. Each bottle is a tall
10oz with a red, white, blue and gold head of an eagle on one side,
and on the back is a handsomely designed box with the corresponding
state's motto, flower, seal, flag, picture and bird. There are only
three complete sets of this series in existence.
American West Beverages, located in Kennesaw, Georgia, holds
distribution rights in Colorado, Oklahoma and Utah for the sale and
distribution of Red Rock Beverages, for worldwide distribution of the
Limited Edition Collectible Red Rock Bottles and to produce soft-drink
bottles with the Babe Ruth endorsement of Red Rock Cola. Curtis
Management of Indianapolis, Indiana holds the exclusive worldwide
rights to any use of any nature of the Babe Ruth name or image by any
Red Rock can still be found in the areas that these distributors
service. If you are not one of those lucky ones in these areas, it is
also available on the Internet in at least two online shops. "The
Soda Shop", out of Scottsdale, Arizona, 877-POP-SODA, has Red
Rock Cola and Ginger Ale for $1.49 a single bottle, $8.49 for a
six-pack, and $31.99 for a case of twenty-four . Another store is
"ifsandsbutts.com", out of Dallas, Texas, 888-712-8887,
which also advertises "Afri-Cola" (from Germany) as one of
the 135+ brands they carry, priced at $10.95 a six-pack, or $39.95 for
a case of twenty-four. You can mix and match from their extensive
- ABOVE: Close-up of embossed amethyst bottle.