Remember that TV ad? Well, Kool-Aid® got its start right here in Hastings, Nebraska. This internationally known soft-drink mix, now owned by Kraft Foods, actually started out as a liquid concentrate called Fruit Smack.
Edwin Perkins was always fascinated by chemistry and enjoyed inventing things. When his family moved to southwest Nebraska at the turn of the century, young Perkins experimented with home-made concoctions in his mother's kitchen. Edwin's father opened up a General Store in Hendley, Nebraska. It was in the store that Edwin became entranced with a new dessert mix introduced by a childhood friend (and future wife) Kitty Shoemaker. The powdered dessert came in six delicious flavors and was called Jell-O®. Edwin convinced his father to carry the dessert line in his store. It was at this same time Edwin sent away for a kit called "How to Become a Manufacturer." During the following years, Perkins graduated from high school, published a weekly newspaper, did job printing, served as postmaster and set up a mail order business called "Perkins Products Co" to market the numerous products he had invented.
In 1918, Perkins married his childhood sweetheart, Kitty, and developed a remedy to kick the tobacco habit called "Nix-O-Tine." By 1920, the demand for this and other products was so great, Perkins and his wife moved to Hastings, which had better rail service for shipping purposes. Another product that was proving to be popular was a concentrated drink mix called Fruit Smack. Fruit Smack, like Jell-O®, came in six delicious flavors. The four-ounce bottle made enough for a family to enjoy at an affordable price. However, shipping the bottles proved to be costly and breakage was becoming a problem as well. In 1927, Perkins developed a method of removing the liquid from Fruit Smack so the remaining powder could be re-packaged in envelopes (which Perkins designed and printed) under a new name to be called Kool-Ade. (He later changed the spelling to Kool-Aid.)
The product, which sold for 10¢ a packet, was first sold to wholesale grocery, candy and other suitable markets by mail order in six flavors; strawberry, cherry, lemon-lime, grape, orange and raspberry. In 1929, Kool-Aid® was distributed nation-wide to grocery stores by food brokers. It was a family project to package and ship the popular soft drink mix around the country.