How many brands experience massive success only to crash and burn? Plenty, we’d say. Now, how many of those brands get to rise from the ashes and basically pick right up from where they left off? A happy few, at most. The Pop Shoppe is one of them. Their unorthodox beginning and interesting packaging choices created a brand that took root in all who sampled their delicious sodas. That’s why we’re giving them the coveted title of iconic packaging.
The Pop Shoppe was established in 1969 in London, Ontario. As the story goes, two business friends shrugged off Woodstock to create their own brand of soda. And, as the rest of this blog will show you, that choice was an interesting one.
Rather than going the route of traditional retail distribution, The Pop Shoppe established their own stores and franchised outlets to sell their soda. This cut out the middleman, kept prices low and let them build a brand all their own. They also developed their own styles of refillable drinking bottles and packed them in 24-count cartons.
The Original Bottle
The original Pop Shoppe bottle is single-serving in size, with a raised cross-hatch pattern on the glass. A larger and smoother bottle, meant for sharing, would be added into the mix later. As you can guess, they’re now collector’s items and extremely hard to find in good condition.
With 14 highly-successful shops operating in Ontario in the early 70s, demand grew so big they just couldn’t keep up. A local venture group stepped in, buying The Pop Shoppe and giving them the means to expand into over 500 stores. By the late 70s, they’re able to step into the US market, expand to 26 delicious flavors and reach the impressive milestone of selling one million bottles a day.
The Pop Shoppe Crate
Taking their cue from the milk industry, The Pop Shoppe created an iconic packaging piece in the form of branded 24-bottle crates. Though plenty of other brands would eventually try their hand at the same thing, The Pop Shoppe’s crates would become yet another highly sought-after collector’s item.
The Original Stubby Bottle
Joining the growing TPS family, the 10 oz stubby bottle brought another new look and feel to The Pop Shoppe lineup. Retaining the tactile pattern on the glass, it would prove to be just as popular and rare a collector’s item as its two other siblings.
But, as meteoric as The Pop Shoppe’s rise was, so was its end. The early 80s would see their sales slow to a halt, credited to the competition they faced from private label grocery store soft drinks. In early 1983, share trading and bottle production would come to an end. And, while some independent stores would manage to survive on their own for a while, they too would eventually close. The Pop Shoppe’s trademarks expired in 1993.
Interesting fact: The Pop Shoppe produced so many bottles and crates that for years after the end of production, other soft drink bottlers were using them for their own products. That wasn’t exactly authorized, of course.
The New Bottle
In 2002, an entrepreneur named Brian Alger re-registered the TPS trademarks and worked to bring the brand back to life. Having grown up on The Pop Shoppe’s soda, he took great effort and care to recreate each flavor exactly as they were 20 years before.
The Pop Shoppe re-launched in 2004 with 4 flavors and a new bottle shape. Rather than establish new stores, The Pop Shoppe was sold as a premium soda and began to appear in corner markets and restaurants. Its nostalgia factor made it an instant hit.
A distribution agreement with Beverage World Inc. in 2005 helped The Pop Shoppe continue to grow, adding more flavors and appearing in bigger grocery stores like Costco. In 2009, the stubby bottle was re-introduced to their lineup, in a larger 12 oz size that even retained the original’s cross-hatch pattern.
The Pop Shoppe’s long-awaited return to the US market would come in 2011. And as you’d expect, its arrival was also an instant hit.
Hard Soda Cans
2017 would bring a new product line to the foreground: The Pop Shoppe Hard Soda. Moving away from bottles, aluminum cans were chosen as their new drinking vessel of choice. Decked-out in The Pop Shoppe’s nostalgic look, some of their most popular flavors are mixed with vodka.
When first released, the Hard Soda line was met with hard criticism. Several activist groups claimed the bright packaging would appeal to children. And though the soda (with its nostalgia-based branding) is clearly aimed at adults, it’s a criticism that some agree with.
It’s quite the feat for a business to endure death and then resurrect roughly 20 years later. And to do it successfully—building on nostalgia and packaging choices that still hold weight today—is especially impressive. If that’s not worthy of the iconic packaging title, we’re not sure what is.
What do you think is worthy of featuring in our iconic packaging series? The Packaging Company would love to hear it!