Niles Foster, a former bakery and bottling plant owner, created Hi-C in 1946. It took Foster over a year to develop the ideal formula for Hi-C orange drink, containing orange juice concentrate, peel oil and orange essences, sugar, water, citric acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). The name "Hi-C" referred to its high vitamin content. Hot-packed in enamel-lined 56-ounce cans, the product needed no refrigeration before opening. After test marketing in 1947, Hi-C orange drink was introduced in 1948 with a massive promotional effort, spending thousands of dollars weekly per market on promotions. Foster entered into an agreement with Clinton Foods, Inc., to produce and market Hi-C, with Foster managing the Hi-C business.
Originally marketed in the southern United States, Hi-C was introduced into the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets in 1949. As markets for Hi-C were expanded nationwide, so were the contract operations, strategically located near major market areas. The multi-plant system facilitated quick product shipping, minimizing out-of-date merchandise problems. New flavors of Hi-C fruit drinks were developed as an outgrowth of the contract packer system. Grape, the second flavor introduced, evolved naturally from the fact that the Geneva, Ohio, co-packer was also processing fresh grapes. Apple and cherry drinks were introduced as a result of the fresh fruit processing operations at the Paw Paw, Michigan, co-packer plant. The contract packing concept is still used today by the Coca-Cola Foods Division. As the Hi-C business continued to grow, it attracted the attention of the Minute Maid Corporation, and in 1954 Clinton Foods, Inc., sold its Florida holdings, including Hi-C fruit drinks, to Minute Maid. Niles Foster left the Minute Maid Corporation shortly after the Hi-C brand was purchased. George Roberts, assistant sales manager for Niles Foster when Hi-C was introduced, stayed on, first as National Sales Manager for Hi-C, then later as Director of Contract Packer Operations for the Houston, Texas, based Coca-Cola Foods Division, ensuring the successful marketing, promotion, and distribution of Hi-C. The Hi-C business continued to expand with new flavors (orange-pineapple, pineapple-grapefruit, Florida Punch, peach) and innovative marketing techniques. By 1958, Hi-C fruit drinks had become an American supermarket staple, available in every grocery store nationwide.
Hi-C contains 10% fruit juice.
Hi-C is currently sold in drink boxes and soda fountains. There are other flavors at Coca-Cola Freestyle. There were no official drink bottles or bottled containers of this product. There were soft frozen versions of Flashin' Fruit Punch and Orange Lavaburst made by J & J Snack Foods and can be found in stores like Dollar Tree, but the Orange Lavaburst flavor seems to have been discontinued.
The Hi-C products used to be the color implied by their flavor, but in 2002, Hi-C was re-introduced as a yellowish clear beverage that would not stain clothing. Thus, flavors like Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen lost their distinctive colors. The soda fountain versions of Fruit Punch, Poppin' Pink Lemonade and Orange Lavaburst, however, still retain their red, pink and orange colors, respectively.
Subsequent growth of the Hi-C product line included globalization to selected markets worldwide.
- Flashin' Fruit Punch
- Orange Lavaburst
- Torrential Tropical Punch
- Boppin' Strawberry
- Grabbin' Grape
- Poppin' Lemonade
- Strawberry Kiwi Kraze
- Blazin' Blueberry
- Wild Cherry
- Smashin' Wild Berry
- Candy Apple Cooler (discontinued)
- Double Fruit Cooler (discontinued)
- Hula Punch (discontinued)
Hi-C Blast (discontinued)
- Berry Blue
- Blue Watermelon
- Fruit Pow
- Fruit Punch
- Orange Supernova
- Raspberry Kiwi
- Strawberry Kiwi
- Wild Berry
- Ecto Cooler
- Wild Cherry
Ecto Cooler was a product tie-in with the cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters, based on the 1984 live-action film, Ghostbusters. It was a rebranded version of an earlier drink from Hi-C called Citrus Cooler, which had been on shelves as early as 1965 and continued to be sold until the rebranding to Ecto Cooler. Hi-C struck a deal in 1987 to promote the series by developing a drink. Expected to last only as long as the series, the drink was successful beyond expectations and continued after the series' 1991 cancellation to be produced for more than a decade. The Ecto Cooler box featured The Real Ghostbusters character Slimer, as did the commercials.
Slimer left the box sometime around 1997, but Minute Maid discontinued the product in 2001, at which point it was renamed Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen. Slimer was replaced on the packaging by a similar-looking blob of lips. The product was still noted as ecto cool on many store receipts. In 2006, Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen was renamed Crazy Citrus Cooler. In 2007, Crazy Citrus Cooler was discontinued.
In April 2016, Coca-Cola announced that Ecto Cooler will return for a limited time, starting May 30, as part of a promotion with the rebooted Ghostbusters. A company spokeswoman said the new drink will have its original sweeteners simplified to just high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients reduced so it "maintains the correct amount of tartness". Ecto Cooler was re-released on May 30, 2016. The color of the drink was green, the same as the original drink. When chilled, the drink's can changed from a dark green color to bright slime green. Ecto Cooler was met with major backlash from fans due to the limited availability of the drink. The limited edition can version of the drink was only available online at four sites including Amazon.com and H.E.B. Neither could keep it in stock due to the overwhelming demand. For Amazon, stock was limited by region, making it much harder to purchase. The juice box version was even harder to find as it was shipped to only a handful of smaller grocery stores. A representative for the drink on the product's Facebook page informed fans that they needed to demand that their local store carry the product. By the end of the first week after going on sale, the drink was still very hard to find and was appearing on websites such as eBay for over $100 for a 12-pack. On Amazon, however, the drink is one of the most sold items. Currently, physical Walmart stores as well as regional store Meijer carry them in stock.
In October 2016, the Ecto Cooler Facebook page announced that the drink would be again discontinued at the end of the year with a post saying "My eyes are welling up with green tears as I write this: #EctoCooler will be laid to rest at the end of this year #RIPEcto". Fans were urged to stockpile the drink while they still can; however, response to this news from fans was overwhelmingly negative considering the drink was never mass-produced or easy to find in stores during its May to December run.
- paraphrased from Foodline Volume 16/Number 5/1983, The Coca-Cola Company Foods Division, page 8, interview with George Roberts
- "Ecto Cooler for Adults... - Retro Junk Article". www.retrojunk.com.
- "X-Tainment: The Ecto Cooler Bible". x-entertainment.com.
- Smith, Aaron. "Ecto Cooler is coming back for the new 'Ghostbusters'". cnn.com.
- Sozzi, Brian (25 April 2016). "Coca-Cola's Hi-C Ecto Cooler is coming back, with some changes". thestreet.com.
- "Hi-C's Ecto Cooler Discontinued Again After This Year". slashfilm.com. 2 November 2016.