The Real Food Diary: Indian sodas

18/05/2016 Leave a comment

As the temperature rises with each passing day – what have you been sipping on to beat the heat? Is it a fizzy drink from a multi-national company, or a glass of homegrown lemonade? We have a million options now, but there was once a time when Indians enjoyed a bevy of local flavours as thirst quenchers. Before brands (and brand ambassadors) became a hit, several generations identified soda water with its colour. Even though this was a time when foreign drinks reigned supreme, there was an attachment (and a sense of independence) associated with picking the local drinks instead.

Set up in 1932 by Hajoori and Sons, Sosyo, flavoured with apple cider and grape, was the only aerated drink consumed in Surat for years. In a dry state, its taste helped position it as an alternative to alcohol. Bovonto, from Kali Aerated Water Works, is over a century old and will make anyone who grew up in Tamil Nadu nostalgic. Even today, locals add salt and lime to it, pour it over ice and gulp it down with a plate of idlis. The company is worth Rs 100 crore today, and continues to expand even though it caters to a very niche market. Another popular Indian soda is Toring, also a sugary concoction in the South Indian market. Even though international brands have had a presence in India since the pre-independence era, small-scale, local brew (usually produced by family businesses) have stood their ground.

In 1977, Coca Cola was asked to leave the country under the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, which led to the growth of local fizzy drinks. When it returned in 1993, it acquired Parle’s Indian classics such as Thums Up, Citra, Limca and Gold Spot — resulting in the decline of the local soda industry.

However, local sodas still cater largely to a market outside big cities, ignored by multinational brands. As a result, some local concoctions have been enjoying a dedicated consumer-base for centuries. For instance, Ardheshir and Sons have been manufacturing drinks since 1884 and considering how much of a fan following their lemon, raspberry and jeera-flavoured sodas have — their sales certainly see no signs of reducing anytime soon. The history  of Indian sodas is quite intriguing; grab a bottle of your local concoction and drink up, as Vikram Doctor tells you about the magnificent story about the Indian drinks that cost as little as Rs. 7.

Listen to the podcast here.

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