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Close-up of amethyst bottle

Red
Rock
Cola

 

     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 other beverages

     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 others.

     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 list.

  • ABOVE: Close-up of embossed amethyst bottle.
Embosses bottle Embossed bottle Embossed bottle
 
  • Left: The Red Rcok Co. Embossed. (Aqua) Knoxville Tenn
  • Middle: The Red Rock Co. Embossed. (Clear) Knoxville Tenn
  • Right: The Red Rock Co. Embossed (Light green) Knoxville Tenn

Not pictured: The Red Rock Co. Embossed. (Light aqua) Jacksonville, Fla.

RRgingerale.jpg (5776 bytes) redrockjug.jpg (85287 bytes)

From left to right: 
Red Rock Ginger Ale bottle
Two Red Rock Cola ACL bottles, one showing the back of the bottle
Amber Red Rock gallon syrup jug
Red Rock Cola tin sign in the shape of a bottle
(Click on the thumbnails of #1 and #4 to see full image.)

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