R Whites is a refreshing premium lemonade, made with real lemons. It is probably most famous for its long-standing advertising campaign – ‘The Secret Lemonade Drinker’.
In 1845 Robert and Mary White produced the first R Whites lemonade, along with ginger beer, from their home in Camberwell, London. Originally sold from a barrow, their drinks proved so refreshing that the business rapidly expanded. By 1869, the company had five production units and 16 depots across the Midlands and South East of London.
In 1891 Robert White took control of HD Rawlings, which supplied drinks to Royal Houses across Europe, and formed a limited company in 1894.
In the First World War, the company supplied over half of its horses and vans to the government’s war effort without seriously damaging output.
In 1970, the company opened a factory in Beckton, East London, which is now produces large pack carbonated drinks for Britvic Soft Drinks
1973 saw the launch of the brand’s most famous advertising campaign, ‘The Secret Lemonade Drinker’, which remained on screen until 1984. The ad featured a man in striped pyjamas creeping downstairs to raid the fridge for R Whites Lemonade. Ross McManus, the father of singer Elvis Costello) wrote and sang the original song, with his teenage son, providing backing vocals. The ad won a silver award at the 1974 International Advertising Festival.
In 1980 the company merged with the soft drinks division of Bass (Canada Dry UK) to form Canada Dry Rawlings Ltd.
The brand came into Britvic’s care in 1986, through the merger of Britvic Ltd, the soft drinks division of Allied Lyons Plc and Canada Dry Rawlings Ltd, which resulted in the formation of Britvic Soft Drinks Ltd.
In the early 1990s Britvic revived the Secret Lemonade Drinker, with a campaign that featured celebrities of the time, including Ronnie Corbett, Jimmy Greaves, Ian St John, Nicholas Parson, Frankie Howard and John McEnroe, making a surprise appearance behind the fridge door.
Did You Know?
- R Whites was originally sold in stone bottles, which are still frequently dug up in gardens.
- During the First Wold War, over one hundred R Whites employees served in the armed forces.
- A Secret Lemonade Drinkers Club was formed in Leeds as a tribute to the campaign; the club had its own football team that played in pyjamas.