Friday, January 13, 2012

Dublin Dr Pepper

Any of ya'll who know me very well know that I'm a Pepper, to the core. Dr Pepper is the only soda I've ever drunk with any regularity. In a pinch Mr. Pibb, or most generic versions of Dr Pepper will do, but when the server says to me, after I've ordered my Dr Pepper "Is Pepsi ok?", the response they'll get is "hell no, Pepsi's not OK, if I wanted a Pepsi, I would have ordered one. I'll have tea or water instead." I started ingesting Dr Pepper in utero, because during her pregnancy, coffee made my mother sick, so she, being the good TX woman she is, drank Dr Pepper for her caffeine. (After all, this was, you know, before caffeine was bad for us, particularly for developing babies). When I was a little girl, and we lived in Kansas, we would periodically go down to Marshall to visit my grandmother. Her Dr Pepper was HEAVENLY. What I didn't know then, was that the taste difference was partially because she bought the liter bottles (glass ones), instead of cans, and partially due to water differences at such at the plant that bottled hers vs. the plant that canned what we could get a the commissary. Even when we moved back to TX, ours tasted different than hers, though once she moved to a neighborhood near ours, I figured out that by then most of the difference in taste was the glass/can differences.
Once HFCS became the standard rather than sugar for the majority of the Dr Pepper bottlers, I never really thought about the difference anymore, until I was an adult and happened upon some of the cane sugar version. Since I lived in the Dallas & Tarrant county areas, I didn't often come across any of the cane sugar, or Dublin version, because I never traveled into the 6 county area that had always been the Dublin plant's territory. Do I prefer the cane sugar version? Yep, who wouldn't prefer a more natural version. For awhile, I took the longer (timewise) route to visit my bestie because it took me through Granbury and Stephenville, both within the territory, and I could pick up some of the good stuff, albeit at a bit of a premium price (not a LOT more, but it was a bit more expensive). Eventually, I started seeing the 6-packs of 8 oz bottles in some of the small, independent farmer's & specialty markets. When I inquired, I was informed that they drove to Dublin specifically to purchase it, something like once a month or so. By 2007, I was seeing it in major retailers, such as WalMart and Central Market, in TARRANT COUNTY. I also got it out of fountains at several chain restaurants in both DALLAS & TARRANT counties. Did this make me happy? Sure it did, I LOVE that version of Dr Pepper. Did some part of me wonder what was up, since I'd read various places about their restricted territory? Of course. Did that stop me from buying it when I saw it? Nope, if I had the money, I picked some up.
I don't remember when I first heard rumblings of Dr Pepper Snapple Group starting to discuss with the Dublin plant their marketing and labeling, but to the best of my recollection, it's been going on for well over a year, maybe two. When the lawsuit was filed in June 2011, it came as no surprise to me. I don't see it as a corporate greed thing, I see it as enforcing a contract. I recall blips on the news and such about DPSG asking, then telling the Dublin plant to only use "approved" logos. Dublin elected to continue to add "Dublin" to their labeling, rendering it "unapproved". Did they try to get it approved? I have no idea, and now it really doesn't matter. The Dublin plant agreed to a franchise agreement, which spelled out where they could sell the product, and how they could package/label it. They made the decision to knowingly violate the terms of the contract, not just once, but repeatedly. I know of no other franchised products that are allowed to use unapproved, location specific logos or packaging. Every DQ, Burger King, KFC, Whataburger, McDonalds, they all use standard logos and packaging. When I was at the Flagship Whataburger in Corpus Christi a couple of years back, their packaging was exactly like every other Whataburger I've ever been into. Did they place too much faith in the "We are the oldest continually operating plant, so we can make our own rules" idea? Did they think that when push came to shove DPSG would just back down? I don't know, I'm not a party to the inner workings of either organization, nor do I wish to be. What I do know is that as much as I LOVE the cane sugar version, and I'm sorry that it came to this, I can't help but think that the Dublin plant shot themselves in the foot, when they refused to abide by the terms to which they had agreed.
I've gotten several requests to sign at least one petition, there may be a couple circulating, I don't know for sure, and join in a boycott of Dr Pepper Snapple Group products. I've elected not to do so for a couple of reasons. Number one, the time for the petition/boycott was last summer, when the suit was first filed, to show support for the plant and the way it was doing things BEFORE it lost it's Dr Pepper production. As many of us as there are that love the cane sugar version, the reality is that very few of us actually live within the territory that the Dublin plant was authorized to sell in, and therefore the majority of us haven't been drinking it exclusively anyway, and the reality is that even if everyone who signs the petition never buys another Dr Pepper again, it really won't make that much difference to DPSG, their territory is too widespread, and product lines are too diverse. Number two, I don't think that the Dublin plant is the innocent little guy in all of this. They failed to meet the terms of their agreements with DPSG, and in the end, it cost them their franchise. I'm sympathetic to the 14 people who were "laid off", but I question whether or not that was really necessary, and whether that can actually be laid at the feet of DPSG. Could Dublin Bottle Works not use them in another capacity? Ok, they can't bottle Dr Pepper, but they can bottle several other things, why not ramp up production of those, and save the 14 jobs?
I'm sorry that it came to this point, and I'm sure the residents of Dublin are heartbroken and disappointed, but I really think that it could have been avoided if the plant had stuck to its end of the bargain to start with.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I'm with you in now falling prey to the "big company beats up on little guy" attitude. Too often, that's the message even when the little guy isn't following the rules. Does it suck that they lost the production? Yep. Does it suck more that they had to differentiate themselves in this way because HFCS is so prevalent? You betcha.