7 Up Used To Have A Much More Complicated Name

Today, the lemon-lime flavored 7 Up is one of more than 125 brands sold by the Keurig Dr Pepper company. Although it is still popular – it ranked as the 10th bestselling soda as recently as 2021 – its market share isn't nearly as robust as it used to be. Back in the 1970s, for instance, it was the third most popular soda overall in terms of sales, trailing only Coca-Cola and Pepsi. During that decade, it was billed as the "Uncola," as part of an innovative advertising campaign to make it attractive to that era's rebellious youth.

The 1970s were the most successful period in 7 Up's history, at least in terms of market share. The ad campaign, which was the brainchild of the J. Walter Thompson agency in Chicago, was incredibly effective, at one point generating a single-year sales spike of 56%. As prosperous as the 1970s were for 7 Up, however, that wasn't the most fascinating period in the brand's history. When the drink was first created back in 1929, for example, it was as a medicinal treatment, with an ingredient as unusual as anything this side of the cocaine originally included in Coca-Cola. And that use was reflected in its lengthy name.

7 Up was originally created as a patent medicine

In the beginning, back in 1929, the drink wasn't called 7 Up, but rather Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda. It wasn't the kind of name that rolled trippingly off the tongue, and we imagine that the J. Walter Thompson agency probably wouldn't have approved of its marketing potential. But medicines generally aren't given names with marketing in mind, or at least they weren't in 1929. In its original formulation, 7 Up was a patent medicine. The word lithiated in its original moniker referred to lithium citrate, which was then used for mood enhancement. Nowadays, lithium is often prescribed for bipolar disorder.

The unique soda was invented by Charles Leiper Grigg, who had previously created orange sodas called Whistle and Howdy. The latter name was also given to the company he formed with partner Edmund G. Ridgway. By 1936, Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda had been renamed 7 Up, but it kept its lithium citrate until 1948 when that ingredient was barred for soda use by the government. The 7 Up brand, meanwhile, was sold to Westinghouse in 1969, and subsequently changed hands several times before it ended up under the Keurig Dr Pepper banner.