Bottled Up: The Battle Over Dublin Dr. Pepper

Producer Don Merritt

<em>Bottled Up: The Battle Over Dublin Dr. Pepper</em>
Courtesy Photo

In 1891, a Dublin, Texas company became the first to bottle Dr. Pepper, and the tradition — including the use of pure cane sugar, when the rest of the bottlers turned to high fructose corn syrup — continued until 2012, when the Dr. Pepper-Snapple corporation sued to shut them down. That nearly killed the town of Dublin and offended the whole Lone Star State, whose ongoing rage over soda pop is served up in this compelling film.

Were you a Dublin Dr. Pepper fan before you started this film?

I was indeed. A good friend of mine who inspired Bottled Up was a huge fan of Dublin Dr. Pepper, and we made road trips there all the time. Dublin, TX, is a little over two hours southwest of Dallas and, although not as breathtaking as your beautiful coastline, the hills of Central Texas are great and make for a really fun day trip.

Were you surprised how much emotion was wrapped around a soda?

I asked that question to almost everyone we interviewed! To the level that a person assaulted our camera man during filming? Yes, I am surprised. But anything that takes you back to your nostalgic past, particularly one that you can smell and taste like a Dublin Dr. Pepper, then I’m not surprised at all. Especially when you tell those people they can never have it again….

Do you think that there was any culpability on the part of the Kloster family who own the Dublin plant? Could they have been more careful? Or is that just corporate spin?

I’m particularly proud that Bottled Up does a good job of staying unbiased and presents both sides, warts and all. Public opinion was heavily slanted in the favor of Dublin Bottling Works. But one of our key interviews actually takes place in Santa Barbara with Tom Pirko of BEVMARK, a highly regarded beverage industry consultant. He presents an unpopular yet practical view as to why this issue came to a head. Neither side is without fault in this story.

As you report, the ensuing negative publicity did not hurt Dr. Pepper’s bottom line at all. So is there anything to stop other corporations from crushing smaller competitors?

Not sure I have a really good answer for this one, actually. Nor am I the best person to answer it. But, no?

How is Dublin Bottling Works doing now?

They have almost a dozen new soft-drinks. Seems like everywhere I go, be it restaurants, grocery stores, and even hardware stores, I see DBW’s new sodas all over Texas. I’ve heard it’s out on the West Coast too. But I imagine it is very tough on them: Dublin Dr. Pepper was over 70 percent of their sales. People used to buy cases and cases of Dublins.

And lastly: How much better did Dublin Dr. Pepper taste than the corporate blend?

The director/editor of Bottled Up, Drew Rist, wanted to film a taste-test type of challenge to be included in the documentary. But, alas, we were never able to put that together — mostly because none of us wanted to surrender our remaining stash of Dublin Dr. Peppers! It’s that good. There is a reason the Texas Monthly wrote an article with a list of things to do before you die, and Dublin Dr. Pepper is in the top 10 on that list.

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