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Mon, 26 Aug 2013 16:30:00 GMT | By By Jason Notte, MSN Money
Brands that ruled yesteryear

RC Cola



A shopper passes a display of 12-packs of RC Cola. (© © Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
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RC Cola

The first company to offer soda in a can and to offer a diet or caffeine-free soda at all wasn't Coca-Cola (KO) or PepsiCo (PEP), but a Georgia soda pop giant known as Royal Crown.

Though the company traces its roots back to 1905, Royal Crown didn't actually produce a cola until 1934. We'll spare you the stories of RC-and-Moonpie Southern lunches and skip to the good parts where RC puts soda in a can in 1954 while Pepsi and Coke are still attaching bottle openers to vending machines.

RC dropped Diet Rite on the world in 1958 — a full five years before Coca-Cola could pull itself together and put out saccharin-laden Tab in the U.S.. While it basically took a backseat to the cola wars in the 1980s, it was still beating the fizz out of Coke and Pepsi when it came to innovation.

In 1980, a full five years before Michael J. Fox name checks Pepsi Free in "Back To The Future," RC released RC 100 as the first caffeine-free cola. Though its relevance was waning by 1995, it still had the good sense to see that customers weren't all that into the new high-fructose corn syrup formulas being used by Coke and Pepsi and introduced RC Draft Cola — a "premium" product made with the cane sugar all the cola companies were using until the New Coke fiasco of 1985. It would take Pepsi more than 20 years to offer a similar product -- Pepsi Throwback -- while Coca-Cola exiles all its cane-sugar colas to Mexico.

Unfortunately, you can be first to all of these innovations and still come in dead last. In 2001, all RC international businesses were bought by Cott Beverages of Ontario.

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