History Of Soda In India: 5 Iconic Homegrown Soda Brands That Will Make You Nostalgic

If you are a 90s kid, then you surely know what ‘bunta soda’ is. A popular desi drink, it is widely available at different street-side shops, in codd-neck bottles, with a marble inside. While the ‘bunta soda’ is popular in Northern India, it is called ‘goli soda’ in the South (both ‘goli’ and ‘bunta’ refer to the marble inside). Again, in Kolkata, the drink is called ‘fotash jol’ – ‘fotash’ is the sound of the fizz (when the bottle opens) and ‘jol’ in Bengali means water. The list doesn’t end here. Over the years, we have seen several Indian soda brands winning hearts and giving fair competition to global brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi et al. Now, have you ever wondered how the consumption of soda began in India? In this article, let’s take you through the history of soda and fizzy drinks in India.

History Of Soda: Where It All Began:

As per historians, soda as a beverage became popular in England by the beginning of the 19th century. Inevitably, the drink found its way to India, where it became a luxury item for Britons’ consumption. In 1837, Henry Rogers, a chemist in Mumbai, set up what was likely western India’s first “aerated water” factory. In no time, people in India fell in love with this carbonated beverage, or what we refer to as club soda.

(Also Read: How Safe Is Diet Soda – Expert Reveals All)

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Photo Credit: iStock

Roger’s success garnered the attention of Parsi entrepreneurs, who started looking for a commercial opportunity of this British drink. As per a BBC article by historian Dinyar Patel, by 1913, there were more than 150 licensed soda factories in Mumbai (then Bombay). “Parsis played a commanding role in this trade, as is evidenced by the surnames they adopted: Sodawaterwala, Sodawaterbottlewala, and even Sodawaterbottleopenerwala” read an excerpt from the article.

Today, we will take you through a few such iconic home-grown soda brands that ruled the market for years. Take a look.

What Are The Top 5 Soda Drinks | Here’re 5 Iconic Home-Grown Soda Brands In India

1. Rogers

Established in 1837, the brand sold more than just a fizzy drink to people in India. In the early 19th century, Mumbai relied on well water, which as per the residents, was “yellowish-brown muddy liquid with foul smell”. Eventually, there was an outbreak of cholera, taking the lives of hundreds of people. It is then people started consuming the carbonated water, which supposedly helped kill bacteria and viruses in the body. This is when the Parsis sensed a business opportunity out of the new fizzy drink consumed by the Britons.

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Photo Credit: LinkedIn/Dushyant Kotak

2. Palonji’s

If you have been to an Irani Café in Mumbai, then you surely have come across a bottle of sweet raspberry soda by the Palonji’s. In fact, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that visit to a Parsi eatery remains incomplete without enjoying the drink. Palonji’s was established in 1865 and has been ruling hearts ever since. Today, you will find a bottle of Palonji soda in Delhi, Bengaluru, and even London (beyond Mumbai).

3. Duke’s

Duke’s was founded by a Parsi entrepreneur named Dinshawji Pandole in 1889. Pandole named the drink after a brand of cricket ball he used while touring England with a Parsi cricket team. Duke’ came up with flavoured sodas, which created quite a buzz in the market back then.

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Photo Credit: LinkedIn/Dushyant Kotak

4. Cottons & Co.

This iconic brand began its journey in Kolkata in the year 1906. The brand served ginger ale and ice cream soda, evoking childhood memories for many. Unfortunately, the highly competitive market of the global soft drink brands made it tough for them to withstand the competition. However, if you look around, you might find some places in Kolkata still serving these delicious drinks, especially around Esplanade.

(Also Read: Added Excess Baking Soda To Your Dish? Here Are 3 Easy Hacks To Remove Its Bitter Taste)

5. Sosyo

This brand was established in 1923 by a Surat-based businessman named Abbas Rahim Hajoori. He created juice-based aerated drinks and named them Socio – inspired by the Latin word Socious (member) which means friend. The drink was an instant hit and its popularity went beyond the barriers. Later, the brand saw a strong influence of local diction while pronouncing ‘Socio’; hence changed the name to ‘Sosyo’ in 1953. Today, you will also find sosyo being exported to a number of countries.

Parsi soda enterprises were not just limited to India. Historian Dinyar Patel states that from the 1920s, there were two competing brands of Parsi soda in Singapore – Framroz and Phoenix.

However, over the years, global brands totally changed the beverage game in India (and abroad). Since 1992, brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi began overtaking the home-grown brands, making it hard for all to survive the competition. While brands became obsolete, some still continue to survive in the competitive market.

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