A Brief History of U.K. Fizzy Drinks A Brief History of U.K. Fizzy Drinks – BritShop

A Brief History of U.K. Fizzy Drinks

by Jeffrey Davies

Here at BritShop, we love exposing our Canadian taste buds to some classic soft drinks from the UK, or "fizzy drinks" as they are most commonly known across the pond. Unless you hail from British heritage or have travelled Europe, many of us here are unaware of the different kinds of pop you can find in the UK.

That's why, since we're heading into the sweltering hot dog days of summer, we thought we'd give you a rundown of some of the different kinds of British soft drinks we offer that are now back in stock, so you can try out a whole new way to feel refreshed this summer.


Ribena is a blackcurrant-based soft drink that is offered in both carbonated and non-carbonated forms. It's made from fruit drink concentrate and water. It was introduced in 1938 in Bristol by the food and drink company HW Carter, whose research found that blackcurrants were high in vitamin C.

HW Carter held an almost monopoly on the harvest of blackcurrants during World War II, since they were hard to come by during that period. Today, Ribena is available in additional flavors such as strawberry, blueberry, and orange, although the classic blackcurrant remains our favorite.

HW Carter was bought out by the Beecham Group in 1955, who eventually merged with the pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beckman to form GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), who owned and operated Ribena until 2013. Although it remains close to its British roots, the soft drink is currently owned by the Japanese soft drink conglomerate Suntory.


Like Ribena, the soft drink Lucozade was owned and operated by GSK until being sold to Suntory. Created by Newcastle pharmacist William Walker Hunter in 1927 as an energy drink for the sick, Lucozade was originally called "Glucozade," since it was a solution composed of just glucose and water. It was primarily sold only in pharmacies until the 1980s.

Since then, Lucozade has become a popular soft drink and sports drink, similar to that of Gatorade in North America. Today, it's a carbonated orange-flavored drink sold in both bottles and cans. Although considered to be the UK's most popular energy drink, Lucozade is very high in sugar, more than the average Coca-Cola sold worldwide.

Fanta Fruit Twist

Although Fanta is a soft drink brand sold worldwide, flavors differ by country and region. Fruit Twist is a very popular flavor that's unique to the UK, and we usually sell out of it very fast!

Fanta was created in Germany during the Second World War, when the United States established a trade embargo with Nazi Germany. As a result, supply of Coca-Cola syrup was scarce.

One executive working for Coca-Cola in Germany decided to get creative and created what would become Fanta out of the ingredients he had available to him during the war. These included whey, apple pomace, and sugar beet. The name came from a brainstorming session in which the German word for fantasy, "fantasie," was shortened to Fanta. And the rest is history.

Barr's Fizzy Drinks: Irn Bru, Tizer, and more

Barr's is a Scottish soft drink company that produces fizzy drinks in a variety of flavors. In addition to classic carbonated drinks such as bubblegum, cream soda, or lemonade, Barr's also produces Irn Bru, a British soft drink that is quite popular here at BritShop. 

In fact, Irn Bru is commonly described as "Scotland's other national drink," after whisky. It's known for its unique orange appearance and flavor, and is among Scotland's best-selling drinks, competing directly with Coca-Cola.

Another brand that is owned by Barr's is Tizer, whom they acquired in 1972. Its name is said to be shortened from appetizer, as in, "Tizer the Appetizer." It is considered to be the offspring of Irn Bru and Vimto, another popular British fizzy drink. The precise ingredients and flavor of Tizer have never been revealed in full, beyond what is presented on the packaging.


For more than 50 years, Lilt was a soft drink brand only available in the UK and Ireland, owned and manufactured by the Coca-Cola Company. There were four main flavors of Lilt since its introduction in 1974, including Pineapple and Grapefruit, Mango, Banana and Peach, and Mango and Manderin. 

Sadly, after decades of decline, Coca-Cola discontinued the Lilt brand in 2023. The original and most popular flavor, Pineapple and Grapefruit, was absorbed by the Fanta brand. It's currently available under both the Fanta and Lilt labels, rebranded to suit the Fanta logo aesthetic.


Similar to Lucozade, Vimto was created initially as a medicine to help facilitate healing processes. It was created in 1908 in Manchester and was initially sold as Vim Tonic, a health medicine and/or tonic, before being marketed as a cordial beginning in 1913. Vim Tonic was eventually shortened to Vimto.

Today, Vimto is sold as both a cordial and a carbonated fizzy drink in the UK. The soft drink version is a staff favorite at BritShop, composed of grapes, raspberries, and blackcurrants. The best way to describe its taste is cream soda with some berries sprinkled in for extra flavor.

Shop for these U.K. fizzy drinks and more at BritShop.ca!