Cheerwine celebrates 100th anniversary


It has been the iconic regional soda of North Carolina for 100 years and, during that time, it has stayed close to its roots.

“My great-great-grandfather started Cheerwine,” said Joy Harper, head of marketing for Cheerwine, in a phone interview with The Guilfordian. “(It) has always been family owned and operated.”

According to an article in the Salisbury Post, this makes it the oldest privately held soft drink company still held by the original family.

The soda will ring in its centennial with a free celebration in Salisbury, North Carolina on May 20. It will feature music, local food and brewing companies and a barbecue.

Those not able to get to Salisbury can look out for collectible cans, some of which have $100 winning tickets.

But you do not have to buy anything to celebrate Cheerwine at Guilford.

Senior Zack Wolfe came from Virginia, where Cheerwine was not widely available, and discovered the drink his first year at Guilford College.

“I came down here and somebody offered it to me … it was delicious,” said Wolfe. “Back then, they had apple cider at Harris Teeter, big old gallon jugs. (I would) drink the cider, then fill it up with Cheerwine in the Grill.”

Other Guilford students have been drinking Cheerwine most of their lives.

“The main time I would drink Cheerwine was when I was a kid, and we would go up to the beach in North Carolina for the week,” said senior Niall Donegan. “(It has) a great name, you know? Great soda name. I think that’s part of the appeal.”

The drink has, in recent years, gathered a national following. While it is still mostly a regional soda, there was a sharp increase in sales over the internet in 2011, according to an article in The New York Times, as the company tried to push the soda to national distribution.

While it is now shipped all across the country, Cheerwine is still not the most popular drink at Guilford.

According to Zeb Knight, director of dining services for Meriwether Godsey at Guilford, the College purchases about five gallons of Cheerwine syrup a month. This is mixed at a 5-1 ratio with soda water for about 270 glasses served a month, about half as much as Dr Pepper.

“Honestly, for a campus this size, it’s not bad for a regional beverage,” said Knight.

Proportionally, Knight said Guilford is about the same as Wake Forest University and University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the other North Carolina campuses where he has worked.

“It’s a little sweet for my taste … I’m more of a coffee and Gatorade guy,” said Knight. “It is good for cooking, like if you’re making a barbecue sauce for ribs.”

Cheerwine has also made connections with other iconic North Carolina businesses and people, such as Krispy Kreme, Bojangles, Biscuitville and the band The Avett Brothers.

“Cheerwine has been partnering with The Avett Brothers for five years now (sponsoring charity concerts),” said Harper. “It’s been a great way for both Cheerwine and The Avett Brothers to give back.”

But despite increased sales and partnering with big names, Cheerwine is still relatively unknown outside of its home state.

“It’s kind of an indie soda,” said Donegan.

So whether you have lived in Cheerwine country all your life or whether you just discovered it when you arrived at Guilford, this is your chance to celebrate a little piece of local food history.

“We’re proud to be celebrating with all our fans and with all of North Carolina,” said Harper.