Big brands of pop are advertised everywhere you look. LeBron James wants you to drink Sprite. Coca-Cola spends staggering amounts of money to get their name in front of you. And who can’t resist Taco Bell’s Mountain Dew Baja Blast? (Me, admittedly.) But just like there are tons of fantastic craft beers for every Miller and Budweiser, there are smaller pop companies all across America. In Michigan, we have our own regional brand that is hailed unlike any other. If you’re in Michigan, you know Faygo. What is it about this particular Michigan drink that people adore so much?
History of Faygo
If you think Faygo is a new phenomena, you are mistaken. As told in cool comic book panel format on their website, this brand has been around Detroit in some form or another since 1907. That’s 110 years of sugary, carbonated goodness. Through the years they’ve grown into a regional powerhouse, selling both pop and merchandise for those who can’t get enough.
For over 105 years of pop production, Faygo Beverage Corporation has been a proud Michigan company. Faygo is often credited with coining the term “pop” because of the sound the bottle makes when opened.
Back in 1907, the Feigenson Brothers established a bottling company in Monroe, Mich. Drawing from their Russian roots and baking experience, they began creating sodas, inspired by cake frostings from their home-country: fruit punch, strawberry, and grape. The brothers controlled the company until the 1940s, then transferred it to their sons who continued to push the business.
Faygo remained a Michigan-sold product, only until the latter half of the 1950s. It was discovered that the water used to make the pop wasn’t being filtered properly; when it mixed with the other beverage ingredients, the pop had a limited shelf life—possibly exploding. Faygo consulted chemists to resolve the problem. Once water was filtered properly and maintained a longer shelf life, Faygo expanded advertising and marketing.
Black Bart became the Faygo mascot during the 1950s with the famous slogan, “Which way did he go? Which way did he go? He went for a Faygo!” Later in the 1960s, Faygo purchased advertising space during Tigers games and the Detroit soda’s popularity soared, as a result. Faygo continued to use Michigan and Detroit related themes in future ad campaigns. Later, in the 1970s, Faygo produced television ads featuring Bob-Lo Island, formerly an amusement park popular in the Detroit area. Faygo billboards around the Detroit area often feature Detroit-related symbols. For example, the “i” in Detroit or the “1” in 313 (Detroit’s phone area code) are replaced with a bottle of Faygo.
For the 100th anniversary, Faygo re-released classic flavors, Root Beer, Rock ‘n’ Rye, and Red, Orange, and Grape Pop in 16-ounce glass bottles. In 2009, Bon Appetite Magazine awarded Faygo the honor of Best Tasting Root Beer in America, beating out popular national brands like A&W and Barq’s Root Beer.
Faygo continues to evolve and change, matching customer demands and tastes. Recently, the company started producing more diet variations of their drinks. Additionally, it strives to invent unique flavor combinations, like the popular 60/40 (60% grapefruit and 40% lime), Chocolate Crème Pie Soda, Red Pop with lemon, Pineapple Watermelon, Cotton Candy, and whole host of other flavors. Even after being sold to the National Beverage Corporation in 1997, Faygo still remains the staple beverage of most Michiganders.
Next time you go to buy a pop, reach for a Michigan-made Faygo!
Why People Love Faygo
Faygo is so great that it compels people like Desi Rottman to send me texts like this:
“My name is Desi and I love Faygo so much that when I lived in Charlottesville a friend drove me to Richmond to buy Moon Mist lol.”
To really dig into this, I needed to talk to some people. Thankfully, it turns out there are a good number of people in my social circle who are willing to go on the record to talk about pop. These interviews revealed a few common themes and reasons for why this pop is so popular.
Everyone has a story about the first time they had a Faygo. For New York based photographer Nick Karp, it was the first time he went on tour to shoot a band. Rob Van Auken grew up in the Thumb, so distribution was everywhere. Peter Born-Powell fondly recalls growing up with Faygo.
“Every Sunday night we would order a couple of pizzas and my grandparents would come over for dinner. My grandpa would always bring a two liter of Rock N’ Rye and a two liter of Red Pop or Moon Mist.”
The Many Flavors of Faygo
It also doesn’t hurt that it’s just good pop. Speaking for myself, the seldom times I do have pop, nothing beats our Michigan-based brand. Maybe I’m just imagining that it’s a little more sugary and bubbly than any national brand, but that’s the explanation I’m sticking to. As others pointed out, it’s fantastic as a mixer, too. Van Auken and Born-Powell both cited the Orange and Rock N’ Rye flavors as a good mix with whiskey. (The company even lists this on their site as an official recipe). No matter what your needs, there is a flavor that you’ll like. At 53 available flavors (and counting), it would be hard not to.
“They kinda have everything covered,” Van Auken says as he rattles off some of the more unusual flavors, like Pineapple Watermelon and Peach.
Faygo and Insane Clown Posse
And of course you can’t talk Faygo with people without bringing up Insane Clown Posse. This underground Detroit hip-hop group has been around for nearly 30 years. (The music video included here has some explicit language, so maybe pop those headphones in if you’re listening on your lunch break at work). The group has name-dropped, drank, and given out the Detroit-based pop for years. Their fan-base, known as Juggalos, love it as well. One of the biggest fan sites that cover ICP and other underground acts is called Faygoluvers.net. Karp shot the recent ‘Juggalo March On Washington’ and described it as “the best experience [he’s] ever had.” Everyone I talked to shared the stories they’ve heard of ICP buying hundreds of bottles of Faygo for their shows. They all agreed that it was a little weird. But more importantly, it was mostly harmless and a bit endearing to this local brand.
Most Michigan residents (and many people outside the state) are familiar with this glorious pop. It’s one thing for someone to know a brand of pop and quite another for people to feel such a bond to it. It’s clear that Faygo is a Michigan mainstay that isn’t going away any time soon.
What is your favorite flavor of Faygo? What flavor would you create it you could?