Discover the Fun History of Kool-Aid: A Family Favorite for Years

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Kool-Aid is an iconic American brand of flavored drink mix owned by Kraft Heinz and based in Chicago, Illinois. Its powdered form was created by Edwin Perkins in 1927, based on a liquid concentrate known as Fruit Smack.

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Perkins developed Kool-Aid in Hastings, Nebraska, conducting all his experiments in his mother’s kitchen. The original product was a liquid concentrate, but in 1927, Perkins found a way to extract the liquid, leaving behind a powder, which became Kool-Aid. He relocated production to Chicago in 1931, and General Foods acquired the brand in 1953. Hastings celebrates its connection to Kool-Aid with a yearly summer festival called Kool-Aid Days, held on the second weekend in August. Kool-Aid is officially recognized as Nebraska’s state soft drink.

In 2012, Kraft Foods and SodaStream reached an agreement that allowed Kool-Aid flavors to be used with SodaStream’s home soda maker machine. The Kool-Aid brand has attracted a significant collector’s market, with rare packages fetching several hundred dollars on auction sites.

Kool-Aid is typically sold in powder form, either in packets or small tubs. To make the drink, the powder is mixed with sugar and water, usually by the pitcherful. The beverage is then served chilled or with ice. There are also sugar-free versions available, and Kool-Aid is sold in various forms, such as single-serving packets for bottled water, pre-mixed bottles, and even as ice cream or fizzing tablets.

Due to its vibrant colors, Kool-Aid can stain, making it a useful dye for hair or wool. The Kool-Aid Man, the brand’s mascot, was introduced in the 1950s. This anthropomorphic pitcher of Kool-Aid became known for bursting through walls in television commercials, declaring, “Oh, yeah!” In 2013, the character underwent a CGI makeover, depicted as a celebrity trying to fit in with ordinary people.

In recent years, Kraft has shifted the majority of Kool-Aid’s marketing budget toward Latinos, noting that nearly 20% of Kool-Aid drinkers are Hispanic, and a slightly higher percentage are African-American.

The phrase “Drinking the Kool-Aid” has a darker connotation, referring to blindly following a group’s dogma, often in connection with the 1978 Jonestown Massacre. At Jonestown, Guyana, followers of Jim Jones drank a cyanide-laced concoction mixed with Kool-Aid and other ingredients. The phrase has been widely used, though it’s debated whether the beverage in question was actually Kool-Aid or another product called Flavor Aid.

Kool-Aid has also been associated with cases of spiking with psychedelic substances like LSD. Notably, during Project MKUltra, subjects were given Kool-Aid spiked with LSD as part of mind control experiments. Additionally, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters hosted “Acid Tests,” where they served Kool-Aid mixed with LSD, as documented in Tom Wolfe’s book “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”

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