Dublin Dr. Pepper: The Texas legend is no more

February 1, 2012

By Rusty Berry

Last year my wife and I traveled down to Waco to watch one of her first cousins get married over Memorial Day weekend.
Due to the price of gas and the distance, we decided to make the trip with my wife’s parents, which meant traveling down to Plainview and making the journey to Waco by going through Abilene and cutting through the northern part of Central Texas.
After exiting off of Interstate 20, we started to see signs for the town of Dublin, causing all of us to agree to make a point to stop in the small town for a pit stop and purchase bottled six-packs of the legendary Dublin Dr. Pepper.
As our family rolled into Dublin, we soon found a convenience store where once you stepped through the front doors you saw the six-packs of the drink stacked in the middle of the aisle, making it known that you are in the hometown of the famous drink.
My wife and I grabbed a six-pack and as we got ready to check out, the clerk offered both us a cold bottle of the drink to have for the road, allowing us to save all six of the other bottles for when we got home.
I enjoyed the bottles of the soda we bought, but to be honest the only difference between it and the 20 ounce bottle I can purchase at a convenience store anywhere else was the strong carbonation burn from the smaller Dublin Dr. Pepper bottles and perhaps the drink tasting a tad sweeter.
Otherwise, I felt like I was drinking a typical Dr. Pepper.
For those not familiar with Dublin Dr. Peppers, the Dublin Dr. Pepper Bottling Co. began selling Dr. Pepper in Texas in 1891.
The family-owned bottling company laid its claim to fame by touting that it had always used cane sugar to sweeten its soft drinks, unlike most bottlers in the country who have switched to high-fructose corn syrup since the 1970s.
The idea of the soda being made with cane sugar has its appeal, but the fact that most of the Dublin Dr. Peppers came in classic glass bottles and were packed in a cardboard six-pack carrier with a logo that looked like something from the 1950s gave it a nostalgic look to truly make it feel like a fun novelty item you were purchasing.
Over the years the novelty of the Dublin Dr. Pepper has appealed to several Texans, with the town of around 3800 seeing 80,000 visitors each year flock to the town just to purchase their Dr. Pepper.
So it should come as no surprise that the town of Dublin has taken a lot of pride in being the home of the unique soft drink.
Unfortunately, all that changed when the Dublin bottling company settled a trademark dispute with Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc.
Dr. Pepper Snapple sued the tiny Dublin bottler last June, accusing it of diluting the Dr. Pepper brand by selling bottles with the label “Dublin Dr. Pepper.’’ It also accused Dublin Dr. Pepper of selling the soft drink beyond its approved territory, a 44-mile radius around Dublin.
Under the agreement, Dr. Pepper Snapple will distribute Dr. Pepper, sweetened with cane sugar, in Dublin Dr. Pepper’s former six-county territory.
It also will continue selling the cane-sugar version in other parts of Texas in nostalgic packaging, without “Dublin” on the label.
As for the bottling company responsible for the Dublin Dr. Pepper, it will continue to operate as the Dublin Bottling Works Inc. and bottle a handful of smaller soft-drink brands, including Triple XXX Root Beer.
However, after the settlement was announced, Dublin Bottling Works had to lay off 14 of its 37 workers.
For the 14 workers who lost their jobs life will be tough until they are able to land another job.
But for Dublin, the economic impact of losing the attachment to Dr. Pepper will hurt but probably not make a big impact in the life of the town moving forward.
I’m not familiar enough with the story to know if the Dublin bottler was breaking its part of the distribution or trademark agreement with the parent company.
So perhaps the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group had a right to sue.
But considering the annual sales of the Dublin version were worth around $7 million annually compared to the $5 billion the parent company brings in from around the world, perhaps this could have been a case where the big corporation should’ve just left the small business alone.
Now the small Texas town essentially will have to move on without what essentially became its identity and what placed Dublin, Texas as a fun place to visit on the map.
For the small Texas town and surrounding area, I wonder if it will become the Texas hot spot for Mr. Pibb as a way to retaliate against the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.

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