In 1904, Hyman Kirsch, a Russian immigrant, began selling soft drinks in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn , New York . Years later, when he became involved with the Jewish Sanitarium for Chronic Disease (now the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center), he and his son Morris came up with a novel idea to create a special beverage treat for the hospital’s diabetic and cardiovascular patients.
Hyman and Morris developed a line of sugar-free soft drinks which they called No-Cal. And so in 1952 the first ever zero-calorie soda was born, and produced at the company’s plant in College Point ( Queens ), New York.
A soft drink without sugar was a novelty at the time. No-Cal became renowned for special flavors like chocolate (often mixed with a splash of milk by loyal users), black cherry (great with baked apples), ginger ale and root beer.
The No-Cal brand used Hollywood starlets such as Kim Novak and Julie Adams in its print advertising, and commissioned cartoonist Stan Goldberg who became famous for his classic No-Cal pop art billboard.
In the 1960s, the larger beverage companies began to see the potential of diet soft drinks and The Coca-Cola Company launched Tab while Pepsi-Cola launched Patio Diet Cola (now Diet Pepsi). With increased competition, No-Cal faced a challenging environment and the brand eventually disappeared from the beverage marketplace, but its memory lived on.
In January 2005, beverage veterans Mike Weinstein, former CEO of Snapple, and Brian O’Byrne, former CEO of Yoo-hoo/Orangina, began looking for new beverage ideas and remembered No-Cal. It led them on a quest to re-launch the venerable diet soda in an innovative way that was more about bringing back an old feeling than bringing back an old brand. After tasting hundreds of samples, they finally discovered formulas that were so good, it was hard to believe they were calorie free.
In fall 2005, Weinstein and O’Byrne launched the first of four No-Cal flavors – Cherry Lime, Chocolate, Clementine and Vanilla Cream – bottled in 12-ounce glass longnecks and packaged in playful four-pack carriers.