Hastings Museum Director to appear on History Channel to talk about Kool-Aid

Teresa Kreutzer-Hodson filmed an episode of “The Food That Built America.” Her episode “Thirst...
Teresa Kreutzer-Hodson filmed an episode of “The Food That Built America.” Her episode “Thirst Quenchers” will be Episode 12 of Season 4 and is scheduled to air June 18, 2023.(press release)
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 4:20 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2023 at 4:25 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Teresa Kreutzer-Hodson will soon be sharing the origin story of how Kool-Aid came to be.

Kreutzer-Hodson was interviewed for an episode of “The Food That Built America”. Her episode, “Thirst Quenchers”, will be Episode 12 of Season 4 and is scheduled to air June 18 .

“The Food That Built America” is an American nonfiction docudrama series for the History Channel, that premiered on August 11, 2019. Each episode tells a story behind the biggest food brands in the US.

On episode 12 of the 4th season, the show will feature some of the history behind Hasting’s own, Kool-Aid.

“Before juice was everywhere, these innovators used brilliant ingenuity to create the most nostalgic drink products and thirst quenchers of the last century, leading the charge on a new billion-dollar beverage industry.”

Edwin Perkins created Kool-Aid in 1927 in Hastings. As the Director of the Hastings Museum, Kreutzer-Hodson has a strong background in the history of the beverage. She even wrote a book about it called, “Kool-Aid: Discover The Dream.”

Kreutzer-Hodson filmed her episode in September 2022 in Brooklyn.

She flew out to New York City late on a Wednesday and returned to Hastings early on a Friday.

“The Food That Built America” producers wanted to know how Perkins came up with the idea for Kool-Aid. The Hastings Museum can document some of that process.

Nix-O-tine was Perkins’ first real successful product aimed to curb tobacco cravings, but he always had a vision bigger than that. Another product with moderate success was a condensed syrup to flavor drinks, but the bottles broke, so he went with a powdered drink mix.

Perkins’ marketing tactics were of particular interest to the show producers.

Kreutzer-Hodson said Perkins understood how to grab a customer’s attention— and keep it. He wanted the packaging to be visual and eye catching and placement to be up-front and near check-out lanes where customers could see it.

Perkins also used a variety of mail-in and bring-back-to-the-grocer premium offers that simultaneously increased sales and reinforced to the grocers that it was important to keep the product in those high-visibility areas.

Perkins also was way ahead of his time in terms of distribution. He invented Kool-Aid in 1927 and was distributing it internationally by 1929.

For 25 years, Perkins stayed mostly with the six original flavors (Cherry, Strawberry, Raspberry, Orange, Grape, and Lemon-Lime). It was after the sale in 1953 to General Foods that the wide variety of flavors began.

General Foods also maintained Kool-Aid’s tradition for marketing excellence. General Foods introduced the Kool-Aid Man and began targeting advertisements to children, as the product influencers, instead of solely to women as the purchasers. General Foods stayed ahead of the curve in a lot of ways.

Kool-Aid had a sugar-free option already in 1963, and General Foods consistently tried new packaging ideas to increase convenience.