The first attempt at national organization was the U.S. Bottlers Protective Association in 1882. This group dissolved within five years and was replaced by the American Bottlers Protective Association (ABPA) in 1889. The ABPA held meetings to oppose taxes and resolve differences between members, but was largely ineffective. Finally, in 1919, the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages (ABCB) was formed under the strong leadership of James Vernor of Detroit. The group raised money to fight tax proposals that unfairly burdened the industry. They held regular meetings and formed committees to address industry issues. Soon, the annual meetings included equipment displays and the presentation of technical papers for the education of the membership.
The 1920s were boom years for soft drinks with amazing growth in sales and production technology. The ABCB hastened the spread of modern technology and equipment. One of the first accomplishments was the establishment of a scientific research program at Iowa State University to study industry needs and develop better testing methods. In 1923 they adopted the slogan "Quality—Purity— Service" to focus the image of the industry as a safe and reliable source of refreshment for consumers. The group introduced the Sanitary Code for Bottling Plants in 1929, establishing benchmarks for sanitary operations. In 1933 ABCB opened a beverage testing lab in Washington, D.C., to work with bottlers on product and ingredient specifications. This was supplemented by a mobile laboratory, which traveled the nation visiting bottling plants, upgrading local understanding and technical standards. This mobile lab continued for 27 years until supplanted by the growth of corporate field programs.
The ABCB also published important guidelines on the operations and financial controls of bottling plants. The industry faced many challenges from state and federal regulations and taxes that held the organization together, despite the competitive interests of the membership. The Great Depression of the 1930s drove many businesses out of existence, and bottling plants closed, but the five cent price of a bottle of cold soda made it an affordable treat. The advent of the rationing of sugar, trucks, and equipment in World War II also affected many bottlers, but the industry grew rapidly after the war. Some companies benefited from the war as American GIs spread their preference for soft drinks across Europe and Africa. Major brands were becoming international businesses.
ABCB was instrumental in the formation of the scientific association Society of Soft Drink Technologists in 1953. This group, now known as the International Society of Beverage Technologists, has greatly advanced the technical understanding of beverage chemistry and production. Annual technical meetings are attended by bottler, ingredient, and equipment members from around the world with the presentation and publishing of peer-reviewed technical papers.
In 1967, the ABCB changed its name to the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), headquartered in Washington, D.C. A permanent staff of lawyers and technical managers coordinates activities of various volunteer committees to promote the industry and protect it from excessive legislation and taxes. The original reasons bottlers came together over 100 years ago, taxes and bottle return deposits, are still hot issues today.
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