What would a Southeastern Wisconsinite grab on a hot summer day in the 1970s and 80s? Jolly Good soda of course! Jolly Good soda has been one of the most memorable beverages in South Eastern Wisconsin communities.
This cola flavored can of Jolly Good soda features patriotic colors and bright packaging and was made in Random Lake, Wisconsin. The colorful cans differentiated Jolly Good from its competitors as did the added enjoyment of a printed joke on the bottom of every can. This local brand was celebrated as the cornerstone of cookouts, family reunions, and get togethers in Southeastern Wisconsin from 1970 through the 2000s. Jolly Good soda was one of many brands of soda produced in Wisconsin during the twentieth century, but, unlike some other soda brands that began during prohibition, Jolly Good soda has its roots in the history of canned vegetables.
From Sauerkraut to Soda
The canning industry of Wisconsin has been a growing business since the early 1900s. J.B. Krier, born in Belgium, Wisconsin, created his own canning company called The Krier Preserving Company in 1913. Originally, the plant was built to can beets, peas, sauerkraut, corn and beans. In 1931, Krier added soups, juices, spinach, carrots and spaghetti to their production line. A second branch of the company was built in Random Lake in 1935, where it still remains today. Krier Foods began to package cans of soda on a contract basis in the 1960s. In 1970, they launched their own soda line called Jolly Good.
Vegetables do not grow at all seasons of the year, and so canning companies also had slow times during the year when there were no vegetables to can. Jolly Good soda was initially created to give stability to the company by providing employment and revenue throughout the year. During slow periods, Krier Foods could produce soda, and during busy times they could return to canning vegetables. But, soda is a very lucrative business and meanwhile, small canning companies had begun to lose their market share to national brands in the 1970s.
By the 1980s, Krier Foods started focusing solely on soda production, and in the 1990s there were almost 50 different flavors of Jolly Good to choose from. By then, Jolly Good was sold in Midwestern states such as Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and, of course, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, due to increased competition from Pepsi and Coca-Cola and the high price of keeping their products on grocery story shelves, Krier shut down production of Jolly Good in 2007.
Jolly Good soda holds a nostalgic place in many Midwestern hearts. An overwhelming resurgence of interest in this local and unique part of Wisconsin History as well as the national success of other Wisconsin-based brands like Sprecher’s, La Croix ,and Klarbrunn, lead Krier Foods to start reproducing and selling eight of their most popular flavors in 2015. The soft launch started in only three locations, but has now expanded to over 5 different grocery store chains, various gas stations in Sheboygan and Ozaukee county as well as online on the Jolly Good website.
As of October 2018, 138,000 12 pack cases of Jolly good have been sold. Now this nostalgic soft drink can be enjoyed by today’s youth as well as parents and grandparents of Southeastern Wisconsin.
Object history written by Anastasia Welnetz
Thanks to the Random Lake Historical Society.
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Themes in Wisconsin History
Random Lake, WI
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Object history created March, 2019.