If you’re the person in your household who’s largely responsible for grocery shopping, there’s little doubt you’ve seen them — clear glass bottles filled with liquid refreshment in eye-catching, mouth-watering shades of orange, green, yellow and red. Chances are you’ve tried one as well, and maybe even a flavor (Guava? Mango? Jamaica?) you never imagined would make sense in soda form. Either way, you’ve encountered a brand that has carved out more than a niche in the crowded soda marketplace, and whose appeal cuts across traditional demographic categories: Jarritos.

But how did Jarritos come to be such a familiar sight in North American supermarkets? From the beverage’s humble beginnings in a Mexican cocina to its current status as something of a household name, the story of Jarritos is every bit as colorful as their naturally flavored sodas and distinctively molded glass bottles.

Humble Origins

Jarritos may be most celebrated these days thanks to its development of bold, fruit-forward flavors such as lime, mango and pineapple. Surprisingly, however, the soda’s first incarnation wasn’t fruity at all.

When Francisco Hill first concocted Jarritos in 1950, he focused his attention on perfecting just one flavor: coffee. Unorthodox, perhaps, but Hill was committed to establishing an identity distinct from the American-style colas so prevalent in his day. His innovative recipe — and the glass bottle in which he packaged it, which resembled a type of clay water jug (known as “jarritos” in Spanish, which translates as “little jars”) ubiquitous throughout Mexico — caught on quickly.

With demand growing, Francisco Hill decided to add another flavor to his lineup, and thus Jarritos made the jump to tamarind. This unusual ingredient that packs a sour punch and can be found in iconic dishes from Southeast Asia to Latin America. Not only did Hill create the world’s first tamarind soda, but, in so doing, he also developed an ingenious new process for distilling the essence of the pod-like fruit. He was clearly onto something big — Jarritos’ Tamarindo has stood the test of time and is still among its top-selling flavors.

Over the next several years, Hill expanded to more fruit flavors, especially ones found in orchards and groves across Mexico. With all his recipes, he placed an emphasis on natural extracts, not artificial recreations or approximations of fruitiness. By 1960, Jarritos had secured distribution in 80 percent of Mexico’s 31 states.

Not your average soda

From mandarin to guava to hibiscus (or Jamaica, as it’s been branded in North America), Jarritos’ innovative flavors and cheery colors set the brand apart from traditional sodas. Many consumers also find Jarritos to be more refreshing than your average soda thanks to the company’s commitment to using only natural sugars (no high fructose corn syrup here) and flavors.

From the start, Francisco Hill understood the importance of giving his sodas a juicy, lip-smacking savor. Additionally, Hill tamped down on the level of carbonation in Jarritos and chose to leave out the caffeine so prominent in competing products. Those decisions have helped make the brand highly visible not only all across Mexico but also in the United States, where changing attitudes towards and mores concerning healthy eating have revolutionized the packaged foods industry.

Jarritos moves north

Jarritos made its way to North America in 1988. But it took a few years to catch on with American consumers.

Sure, you might have seen the Jarritos bottles hanging around in the background if you frequented taco trucks and hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex joints, but until recently, the name “Jarritos” didn’t ring any bells for most Americans.

Both the size of the Millenial population and the ascendance of foodie culture have, for Jarritos, been rising tides that lift all boats. Moreover, the market has proven Hill to be correct in his instincts. Although created to cater to non-U.S. tastes, Jarritos is a sweet treat preferred by many American consumers hyper-conscious of what they put in their bodies. Today, Jarritos is far and away the best-selling Mexican soda in the United States. Perhaps the most notable testament to Jarritos’ popularity is the recent reincarnation of its mandarin flavor as a 7-11 Slurpee. Talk about a watershed moment!

Jarritos shows no sign of slowing down, either, and the company’s eventual goal is to see their beautiful bottles stocked on the shelves of every supermarket in the United States. Having landed distribution in major retailers such as Target and Walmart, Jarritos is well on its way towards realizing its colorful vision of the future.

If you want to learn more about what makes Jarritos super-good, visit their website to browse all their flavors and discover just what has made these sodas so beloved by refreshment-seekers everywhere.

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