In the early 1900’s, Edwin E. Perkins, later known as the “patent medicine man,” started experimenting with homemade concoctions and remedies in his mothers kitchen in Hasting, Nebraska. Working in his fathers general store, Edwin was introduced to Jell-O, a powered dessert mix that came in six different flavors. After finishing high school, Edwin bought a printing press and used it to advertise his postal service and the mail order business for the products he was inventing.
During the 1920’s, Edwin’s products were in such great demand he and his wife relocated from Hendley to Hastings for the better rail service. He sold a sample kit with lotions, salves, jelly making products and a fruit drink concentrate in power form known as “Fruit Smack.”
Fruit Smack, inspired by Jell-o, came in six different flavors in four ounce bottles. The product was popular, however the packaging posed a problem when shipping. The glass would break or leak, and the package was simply too heavy. Edwin started playing around with the chemicals and the recipe of Fruit Smack, working to dehydrate it to decrease the weight and help it ship more easily.
By 1927 he had Kool-Aid in 6 flavors; raspberry, cherry, grape, lemon, orange and root-beer. The product took off and by 1931 the Perkins Products Co. could no longer focus on other items, only the Kool-Aid. Production was moved from Hastings, Nebraska to Chicago, Illinois.
At the time of the Great Depression, Perkins decided to take a risk and cut the price of Kool-Aid in half from 10¢ to 5¢ . This move helped sales keep increasing even during a time when people had no money. By 1950, demands led Perkins to expand the factory and the 300 workers made close to 1 million packets of Kool-Aid a day. In 1953, Perkins had sold Kool-Aid to General Foods, and within a year they created the smiling face pitcher that became the known Kool-Aid man. Eventually Kraft Foods acquired General Foods and introduced new Kool-Aid products into the market.
Kool-Aid now can be found in many different flavor in the original powered form, in liquid, in bursts and in jammers. Bursts can be found individually among soft drinks in convenience stores and delis. Jammers come in a silver pouch. Kool-Aid is available in the original 6 flavors, in sugar-free flavors and in water flavors. They constantly create new flavors and mixes, some that catch on and last, others that are a limited edition appearing on shelves briefly.