Mountain Dew is one of the most popular soda brands in the United States, recognizable by its bright green color and bold citrus flavor. But was Mountain Dew always green? The answer is yes and no.
Mountain Dew was originally created in the 1940s and did not actually contain any green food coloring in its original formula. However, the soda was advertised with a hillbilly mascot who was illustrated with green tattoos, which associated the brand with the color green early on. When Mountain Dew was acquired by PepsiCo in 1964, it began using green food coloring in the soda to match its branding. So while the earliest batches of Mountain Dew did not contain green dye, the soda has been a distinctive neon green color for over 50 years.
When was Mountain Dew first created?
The origins of Mountain Dew date back to the 1940s in Knoxville, Tennessee. Two brothers, Barney and Ally Hartman, owned a bottling company and acquired the recipe for a lemon-lime soda called Mountain Dew from another bottler in the region. The Hartman brothers began bottling Mountain Dew in 1946. At this time, the soda did not actually contain any green food coloring. The name “Mountain Dew” was slang for moonshine and the beverage was marketed to hillbilly characters in Appalachia.
When did Mountain Dew start using green food coloring?
When PepsiCo acquired the Mountain Dew brand in 1964, they made several changes to the formula, including adding more sugar and citrus flavors. Most noticeably, PepsiCo started adding green food coloring to Mountain Dew to better match the hillbilly branding and “dew” name. By the 1970s, Mountain Dew’s bright green look was part of its image and brand recognition. The synthetic green dye used today is Yellow #5 (tartrazine).
What were the original Mountain Dew ingredients?
According to the Hartman brothers’ original formula, these were the ingredients in early Mountain Dew before PepsiCo acquired the brand:
|Carbonated water||Sufficient quantity|
|High fructose corn syrup||19g per 8 fl oz|
|Concentrated orange juice||1.14g per 8 fl oz|
|Citric acid||0.26g per 8 fl oz|
|Natural flavors||0.13g per 8 fl oz|
|Sodium citrate||0.10g per 8 fl oz|
|Caffeine||0.11g per 8 fl oz|
|Sodium benzoate||0.02g per 8 fl oz|
|Yellow #5 (Added in 1960s)||0.03g per 8 fl oz|
As you can see, the original Mountain Dew did not contain any green food coloring. The Yellow #5 (tartrazine) was added by PepsiCo to create the soda’s distinctive green look.
How did Mountain Dew get its name?
The origin of the Mountain Dew name is rooted in Appalachian slang. In the mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky, the term “mountain dew” was a nickname for high-proof distilled liquor, aka moonshine. The Hartman brothers capitalized on this slang when naming their new soda. They wanted Mountain Dew to have an image of a hillbilly beverage from the backwoods.
Early Mountain Dew advertising leaned heavily into the hillbilly theme. The brand’s original mascot was “Willy the Hillbilly”, a shoeless character with long scraggly hair and a beard. Willy often was illustrated holding a jug of moonshine with XXX printed on the label, referring back to the soda’s moonshine roots.
When did the Mountain Dew slogan “Ya-Hoo Mountain Dew” start?
In the 1950s, Mountain Dew adopted the slogan “Ya-Hoo Mountain Dew” and started using “hillbilly” characters in its advertising. The most memorable was “Willie the Hillbilly”, who was illustrated holding a jug of moonshine with the XXX label on it. This slogan and imagery cemented the connection between Mountain Dew and Appalachian moonshine.
Here’s a look at one of the classic 1950s ads featuring Willie the Hillbilly yelling “Ya-Hoo” for Mountain Dew:
The “Ya-Hoo Mountain Dew” slogan and Hillbilly Willie illustrated the beverage’s regional roots and gave it an air of backwoods authenticity that appealed to customers. The slogan lasted for over a decade and became part of Mountain Dew’s unique brand image.
When did Mountain Dew change its formula?
The formula for Mountain Dew has gone through a few changes over the decades:
– **1940s:** The original Mountain Dew recipe created by the Hartman brothers contains no green dye, less sugar, and less citrus flavor. It is marketed as a hillbilly drink.
– **1964:** PepsiCo purchases Mountain Dew and reformulates it. More sugar and citrus flavors are added. Green food coloring is also added to match the existing hillbilly branding.
– **1970s:** Mountain Dew begins using high fructose corn syrup as the main sweetener instead of cane sugar. Other minor tweaks are made over the next decades.
– **2000s:** More variations of Mountain Dew are launched, including Diet Mountain Dew, Code Red, and Live Wire. The amount of orange juice concentrate is slightly reduced.
– **2010s:** Mountain Dew introduces its Throwback formula with real sugar instead of corn syrup in response to customer demand. By the 21st century, the neon green color and intense sweet-tart taste make Mountain Dew iconic.
So while the Mountain Dew formula has evolved over time, the most significant changes happened when PepsiCo acquired the brand in the 1960s and added more sugar/citrus flavor plus the signature green coloring.
How did Mountain Dew’s branding change over time?
Mountain Dew’s branding and marketing has shifted quite a bit since it was first created:
– **1940s:** Hillbilly themed. Willy the Hillbilly is used in advertising along with the “Ya-Hoo Mountain Dew” slogan. Focuses on the drink’s origins from Appalachian moonshine.
– **1960s:** Becomes affiliated with PepsiCo and the youth market. Begins using music and athletes in advertising to appeal to a younger crowd. Transitions away from overt hillbilly branding.
– **1970s:** Becomes a leading soft drink brand by promoting itself as refreshing, energizing drink for active youth. Emphasizes the energy and excitement of the beverage instead of its backwoods roots.
– **1980s – 1990s:** Mountain Dew leans into the “extreme” branding by sponsoring action sports and billing itself as an edgy, intense soda. Commercials feature extreme athletes and adrenaline-filled stunts.
– **2000s:** Has fully evolved into a youth-focused citrus soda known for its bright green look and hype/energy. Begins releasing new flavor variants and diet versions to expand market share.
– **2010s:** Some throwback branding as Mountain Dew releases retro cans and bottles with real sugar. But overall maintains mass appeal among young soda drinkers, gamers, and athletes.
The hillbilly origins of Mountain Dew have been largely phased out in favor of the high-energy branding that Mountain Dew is recognized for today. But you can still see nods to the old timey roots in the name and occasional retro packaging.
How much caffeine is in Mountain Dew?
The amount of caffeine in Mountain Dew has varied slightly over the years, but has always been relatively high for a soda:
– Original 1940s recipe: 52mg per 12oz
– 1960s formula: 53mg per 12oz
– 1970s-2000s: 54mg per 12oz
– Current formulation: 55mg per 12oz
So a standard can or bottle of Mountain Dew contains 55mg of caffeine today. That’s more than Coca-Cola (34mg per 12oz) but less than an energy drink like Red Bull (111mg per 12oz). The combination of caffeine and sugar in Mountain Dew gives it an energy-boosting effect, contributing to its popularity among teens and gamers.
Some other key facts about the caffeine content in Mountain Dew:
– Diet Mountain Dew has the same 55mg per 12oz as regular Dew.
– Caffeine-Free Diet Mountain Dew contains no caffeine.
– Many Mountain Dew flavor spin-offs also have 55mg like Code Red, Voltage, and Livewire.
– Higher caffeine “energized” versions were tested but have not become permanent products.
So while the exact caffeine amount has ticked up or down slightly, Mountain Dew has always had more caffeine punch than most other sodas on the market.
In summary, while Mountain Dew did not originally contain any green food coloring, it quickly became associated with a bright neon green color after PepsiCo acquired the brand in the 1960s. The reformulated soda matched the existing hillbilly-themed branding. Over the decades, Mountain Dew shifted its marketing to focus on youth and energy rather than its Appalachian roots. But the iconic green look and higher caffeine level have made it a go-to soda for generations seeking a burst of lime-flavored energy. So despite not being born green, for over 50 years we’ve known Mountain Dew by its vibrant green color and flavor.