Dr Pepper Sues Itself, Sort Of

Categories: Beverages, News

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Photo by Amit Gupta
Dublin Dr Pepper: the highly-coveted Dr Pepper version of Mexican Coca-Cola.
In the long history of entities suing themselves -- Wells Fargo in 2009, the government of Thailand in 2006 -- none have been as disheartening to Texans as the latest news that Dr Pepper Snapple (DPS), the parent company that owns beverage brands such as Dr Pepper and Snapple, among others, is suing the tiny Dublin Dr Pepper plant in Dublin, Texas.

According to the AP, Dr Pepper Snapple is upset -- justifiably so, it seems -- that the Dublin plant has taken liberties both with its distribution and merchandising, selling its cane sugar-sweetened cola far beyond the 44-mile radius of Dublin as per the terms of its franchise agreement. The distribution area was settled on back in 1925, when transportation and shipping arrangements were far different than they are today.

In a press release distributed yesterday afternoon, the Dublin plant defended its practices, saying: "We are surprised to learn that our corporate partner has taken this action, but we are confident that this lawsuit will not succeed."

I'd be surprised too if my parent company sued me, especially considering the popularity that Dublin's version of the Dr Pepper cola brings to the overall brand.

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Photo by Mike Overall
Bottles on the production line at the plant in Dublin.
To that end, the plant continued: "We have been a loyal partner to Dr Pepper Snapple longer than any other bottler, and we've worked successfully with several different ownership groups for our parent company to become one of the company's most successful franchisees."

And it's a well-known fact that Dublin's success at branding and marketing its Dr Pepper product -- sweetened with Imperial cane sugar since 1891, unlike any other version of Dr Pepper in America -- has led to the drink being found in markets far outside of its distribution area.

Robb Walsh's 2008 feature on Dr Pepper bootleggers told the tale of how the popular beverage is "smuggled" out of the 44-mile radius, not a difficult job when you consider that the Dublin plant doesn't keep tabs on where the syrup or bottles of soda go after they're sold.

The bottles can make it as far as Denver and San Francisco, but according to Walsh himself, they've even gone global: "A commenter on the Dallas Observer website reports finding Dublin Dr. Pepper in Umm al-Quwain--one of the United Arab Emirates," he wrote in the comments section of the bootlegging article.

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Photo courtesy of Facebook
The "Fountain of Love" at The Burger Guys, which dispenses Dublin Dr Pepper from its far left spigot.
That bootlegged soda can be found here in Houston at places as diverse as Crave Cupcakes, Houston's and the occasional Jason's Deli. Then there's The Burger Guys, which dispenses Dublin Dr Pepper from its soda fountain, dubbed the "Fountain of Love."

"I go and get it straight from the Dublin plant," says Jake Mazzu, owner of The Burger Guys and part-time bootlegger. "I bring it in, 12-hour trip, Smokey and the Bandit-style!"

Mazzu prefers the Dublin brand of Dr Pepper for many reasons, including what he perceives as a higher-quality product. "The major brand can produce any product with 'Asian cane sugar,' not Imperial sugar, at their leisure," he says.

"There is no question [about] the quality of the plant versus what the major Dr Pepper brand has put out."

In a statement to the AP, Jim Johnston, president of beverage concentrates for DPS, said that Dublin's actions are "taking business from fellow Dr Pepper bottlers who play by the rules and sell within their defined territories." He continued: "We owe it to our other bottlers to stop these unauthorized practices."

There's little argument that Dublin has taken great liberties with its distribution area, but is it enough to truly undermine such a large, established brand as Dr Pepper? Are enough people in Houston or Dallas opting for Dublin Dr Pepper over regular Dr Pepper that a lawsuit is necessary?

More importantly, how can DPS hope to enforce the strict distribution area when the Dublin plant has no control over what happens to its product once it leaves the facility? As long as the Dublin plant continues to cultivate loyal legions of fans like Mazzu, there's no telling what lengths they'll go to in order to get their hands on the beloved soda.

"It is unfortunate that Dr Pepper Snapple's attorneys are asking our overburdened court system to resolve what we believe is a business matter," the plant said in its press release, "but we look forward to telling our side of the story before a judge and jury, and we will continue to provide great products and great service to every one of our customers."



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25 comments
Guest
Guest

I am a Texan, I loved DP....but now Coca Cola gets my business. Don't mess with TEXAS!!!

Lex
Lex

I can't stand the new Dr. Pepper. I remember they changed the formula years ago (not just the sugar) and it's awful. I drank the old 'sugar' kind last year and I can't drink that swill anymore.

They are smuggling this stuff? Sounds about.

If every crackhead just drank the old Dr. Pepper, the world would be a better place.

Scott218
Scott218

Buckees on I-10 at the Luling exit sells a Dr. Pepper with cane sugar in a green bottle. I don't remember it saying Dublin on it. Anyone know?

Unclemilti
Unclemilti

I WILL NOT BUY THE "CORPORATE" DR PEPPER IF THEY ARE GOING TO BE SO PETTY. KING RAWLINS, BASTROP COUNTY TEXAS

TexasHorseLady
TexasHorseLady

Unbelievable.   Almost on a par with the great New Coke fiasco that is now taught in marketing classes as an example of how NOT to do it. 

A lifelong Coca Cola drinker (my first word was Coke), I switched to Dr Pepper at that point and never went back (and made sure that everyone I know knew why).  If they keep this nonsense up, I won't hesitate to leave Dr Pepper. 

How DARE Dublin Dr Pepper give the consumers what they clearly want - the original formula!  The NERVE of them.

Dr Pepper Snapple, you're losing it.  Better back off now while you still can without embarrassing yourself (and hurting your brand) too much.

Stuart Reb Donald
Stuart Reb Donald

I think there is a lot more to this than a franchisee/franchisor dispute.  This has the ugly stench of Monsanto all over it.

Monsanto has totally infiltrated the federal government with recent Presidential appointees like Tom Vilsack, Michael Taylor and Islam Siddiqui.  These are just a few of their lobbyists placed in policy making positions in the USDA and FDA in the last two and a half years.  Monsanto produces the GM corn used to make high fructose corn syrup and the toxic fertilizers and antibiotics used in Asian farming.  If Dr. Pepper were to start using good old American-grown cane sugar then Monsanto would stand to lose billions because Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, et al would have to do the same to keep up.

With that in mind I'm quite certain that a federal court will find in DPS's favor.  The judges get their marching orders from the Attorney General who gets his from the President who gets his from Monsanto.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

Can't blame the Dublin folks if customers like Jake Mazzu love the product so much that they drive for hours to Dublin to pick up the superior product.

Here's an idea - Dr Pepper corporate, why not offer the Imperial Sugar version from all your bottling plants?  Charge a premium - folks will pay it.  I will.

Charger492
Charger492

If Dr. Pepper really cared they would produce the same product. Since they can't they'll just have to try and contain the superior product to its 44 mile radius and sue. "LONG LIVE DUBLIN DR PEPPER!!"

rmward
rmward

Dr. Pepper is emphatically not a cola.

autumn
autumn

i found dublin in a small market next to upright citizens brigade in hollywood about a month ago. it was surreal.

Tunnel Mole
Tunnel Mole

I'd be pissed too if an employee offered a more superior product out from under my nose  -- and used my brand, even though I myself have prostituted and demeaned my own product.

That said, GO DUBLIN!!!!!

Fred
Fred

"Eastbound and down...."

tex1sam
tex1sam

The Donald is correct. This is all about King Corn killing us softly with high fructose corn syrup.

JarrodJM
JarrodJM

Best. Comment. Ever. In a funny way.

SirRon
SirRon

If this article had been written with the sole purpose of attracting this comment, it was a huge success. Love it.

SirRon
SirRon

+1. WTF Shilcutt?!

Jinnymctx
Jinnymctx

While superior, they are only offering what was the ORIGINAL product. Not their fault that Dr. Pepper corporate changed their practices . . .

Tim
Tim

Let us not forget that should it really go up the federal ladder, Clarence Thomas - he of the recent opinion that life would be better if we were all just more like the puritans - was literally in the pockets of Monsanto before joining the judiciary and has kept close ties ever since.

rmward
rmward

Indeed. A Baylor grad should definitely know better. It's part of orientation, IIRC.

rmward
rmward

Yep. Cola is a type of soda. It includes common varieties such as Coke, Pepsi, RC, etc. Dr. Pepper isn't a cola anymore than it's a ginger ale. This isn't about semantics, this is about having facts straight.

SirRon
SirRon

You are a Baylor gal and have opined about DP in the past. Edit the article and delete our comments. It's the right thing to do ;)

And yes, I'm in the everything-is-a-Coke fan club, but everything isn't a cola.

-Beer, wine, etc. semantics.

Stuart Reb Donald
Stuart Reb Donald

Katharine, just remind everybody that whether it is Coca Cola, Dr, Pepper, 7 Up, Mountain Dew or what if you are in the South it is a Coke.  No one sells soda or pop in the South just Coke.  There's Coke Coke and Pepsi Coke and Grape Nehi Coke.  It's all Coke.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Semantics as in, "I'm not arguing semantics with you guys today." I'll be busy buying up all the Dublin Dr Pepper in town instead. ;)

SirRon
SirRon

Wait, no, it's not.

-Soup, cake, etc. semantics

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