Kool-Aid - A Nebraska Invention

Kool-Aid - A Nebraska Invention
Kool-Aid is a great alternative to soda. Kids love it; most adults grew up with it. It’s cool, refreshing, and comes in a variety of flavors. Have you ever wondered where it comes from? Besides the grocery store, I mean?

The popular drink mix first got its start in Hastings, Nebraska, as a liquid concentrate called Fruit Smack.

As a young boy in Hendley Nebraska, Edwin Perkins was fascinated with chemistry, and he was always coming up with new concoctions in his mother’s kitchen. He also became fascinated with a new powdered dessert sensation called Jell-O, and convinced his father to carry this dessert in the family’s general store. Since Edwin was always inventing things, he sent away for a kit on how to become a manufacturer.

He graduated high school and married his high school sweetheart in 1918. By 1920, Edwin and his new wife Kitty moved to Hastings, where it was easier to ship by rail. Edwin had already invented a product called “Nix-O-Tine”, designed to help end a tobacco habit. He had also developed Fruit Smack, which came in six different flavors. It came in four-ounce bottles, and made enough drink for an entire family. Because it was liquid, it had to be sold in bottles, and the bottles were costly to ship.

In 1927, Perkins worked to develop a way to remove the liquid from the concentrate so that Fruit Smack could be packaged in envelopes. This new powdered drink mix was called Kool-Ade. The spelling was later changed to Kool-Aid as we know it today.

Kool-Aid sold for 10 cents a packet, and was distributed by mail-order only. It was available in six flavors; strawberry, grape, orange, raspberry, lemon-lime and cherry. By 1929, Kool-Aid began to be distributed nationwide to grocery stores.

Because the demand for the product had increased dramatically, the Perkins’ moved their Kool-Aid operation to Chicago in 1931, to be closer to supplies and to make the distribution process more efficient. During the Depression, Perkins cut the price of a packet in half, so that most families could still afford the drink mix during these hard times.

Perkins sold the Kool-Aid line to General Foods in 1953. Shortly thereafter, General Foods introduced the Smiling Face Pitcher, which later evolved into Kool-Aid Man. New flavors were added to the original six, starting with Root Beer and Lemonade. It’s now available in a variety of flavors, some sugar-free, and is also used in recipes. One of my favorite, easy-to-make recipes using Kool-Aid is the Key Lime Margarita Pie.

Hastings celebrates Kool-Aid Days each August, with entertainment, carnival games, boat races, concerts and other events. There’s even the World’s Largest Kool-Aid Stand, where you can purchase a souvenir cup and drink as much Kool-Aid as you want during the festival. Kool-Aid Days became a state-recognized event in 1998.

Key Lime Margarita Pie

1 ½ cups crushed pretzels
¼ cup sugar
6 Tbsp melted butter or margarine

Mix together and press firmly into a 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate until ready to fill.

Or, forget this step and get a pre-made 9-inch graham cracker pie crust. It works just as well!


1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
½ cup lime juice
1 envelope of Kool-Aid Lemon-Lime Unsweetened Drink Mix
1 tub (8 ounces) of whipped topping, thawed and divided as directed

Combine the condensed milk, lime juice and drink mix in a large bowl until blended.

Set aside ½ cup of the whipped topping. Stir in the remaining whipped topping, which should be about 2 ½ cups of topping.

Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Freeze for six hours. Let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before cutting. Garnish with the remaining whipped topping before serving. If you want to make your guests (or your family) think that you special-ordered dessert, add twisted lime slices as a garnish before freezing for that added touch of elegance.

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