Any discussion of the history of soda tends to center around the “cola wars” between Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola. Yet, other sodas and beverages not only were important competitors, but, at least in the early days, had a chance to compete with either of the soda giants, including Royal Crown Cola and Moxie. Then, there were the oddballs that sometimes attracted the attention of the major players. One of these was Yoo-Hoo, the iconic milk based non-carbonated chocolate drink made by the Yoo-Hoo Beverage Corporation. I have fond memories of Yoo-Hoo, growing up in the 1970’s, and it still has a certain appeal, just milk-chocolatey enough to taste good, but watery enough to be refreshing instead of heavy. Before my time, however, there was a competitor to Yoo-Hoo, that wasn’t exactly competition.
In 1966, just after Pepsi merged with Frito-Lay to become PepsiCo. Inc. in 1965, Yoo-Hoo caught the attention, and the envy, of Pepsi. Devil Shake was Pepsi’s own milk-based chocolate beverage.
Devil Shake was a fairly simple formula of non-fat dry milk, chocolate, sugar, artificial flavoring, and water. With its national distribution, Pepsi hoped to easily compete or even oust Yoo-Hoo, initially starting with distribution in the East. Devil Shake was first sold in New York City, with no prior market testing.
The problem, however, was the shelf-life. Pepsi soon discovered that Yoo-Hoo owned the exclusive rights to the only technology, expensive pasteurization equipment, that could produce such a milk based drink with a decent shelf life.
The solution was to enter into an agreement whereby the Yoo-Hoo corporation itself produced Devil Shake, an arrangement which would pay the small company $1,000,000. Although it may seem ridiculous, Pepsi argued that their superior marketing and distribution would benefit Yoo-Hoo and that the Devil Shake formula and appearance was different enough from Yoo-Hoo so as to exist in harmony with it, benefiting both companies. Therefore, Yoo-Hoo would produce the drink and then offer it to Pepsi bottlers for distribution. Pepsi bottlers as well, presumably, would be able to set up and use the equipment to make the drink, at a cost.
Most people who remember the drink would be surprised to learn that it was Yoo-Hoo who filed for a trademark on “Devil Shake” on June, 9, 1966, which was registered in October, 1967, and both Yoo-Hoo and Devil Shake appeared together in ads of the time.
In fact, some reports of the time stated that Pepsi would market and distribute “Yoo-Hoo’s chocolate drink, Devil Shake,” as if it were Yoo-Hoo’s product in the first place. Pepsi was not able to make up the money lost on initial development costs and Devil Shake never really took off. Even though Pepsi promoted it to the “swinging youth,” called it “glitzy” and said it was for people who were “daringly difficult,” most kids liked Yoo-Hoo better. Pepsi abandoned Devil Shake in 1967.
At this time, however, the soft drink industry was becoming interested in what it called “protein-based soft drinks.” Coca-Cola introduced its own chocolate milk based drink called Saci in, of all places, Rio d Jeneiro.
Pepsi had already acquired Mountain Dew, a decidedly citrusy drink, from the Tip Corporation, in 1964. After Devil Shake failed to shake up the competition, the company set its sits on another citrus based diet soda, Fresca, and in the summer of 1967 test-marketed Tropic Surf a fruit-flavored diet soda which went national in 1969. Pepsi had also had a lemon-lime soda called Teem, that had been introduced in 1960 as a competitor to 7Up and Sprite. It never sold that well, either, although it was just as good as 7Up or Sprite. It lingered in some markets until well into the 1990’s. A better name may have made the difference. Pepsi never was that good with names. After all, its first diet cola was called Patio, before the company changed the name to Diet Pepsi.