A&W History

Are you people thirsty for more knowledge about the rich history of A&W Root Beer? For example, what's the origin of our name? How did A&W become so popular? For answers, check out the brief story below.

In 1919, at a parade honoring returning World War I veterans in Lodi, California, Roy Allen set up a roadside drink stand to offer a new thick and creamy drink, root beer. His creation was such a success, he decided to take on a partner, Frank Wright. In 1922, Allen and Wright combined their initials to name the beverage A&W Root Beer.

Allen wasted no time opening his first permanent root beer stand in Lodi, followed by a second one in Sacramento. It featured the first "drive-in" concept with "tray-boys" for curbside service. Then, in 1924 Allen bought out Wright to pursue a franchising program, which became America's first franchised restaurant chain. He sold A&W Root Beer concentrate exclusively to these franchises to ensure quality. By 1933, more than 170 outlets were franchised.

During WW II, A&W Root Beer stands increased in number, despite government sugar rationing. After the war, more than 450 franchises were open, driven by the popularity of the automobile and the new mobile society. In 1950, Roy Allen retired and sold the business to Gene Hurtz. In 1963, Mr. Hurtz sold the A&W Root Beer Company to the J. Hungerford Smith Company.

More ownership changes took place during the 60s and 70s, but the only place you could get A&W Root Beer was on tap at an A&W Restaurant. However, Americans wanted to enjoy it at home, too.

And in 1971, they were able to do just that. A&W cans and bottles were an instant hit when they were first introduced in Arizona and California. Then, in 1974, A&W Sugar-Free was born. In 1986, A&W Cream Soda and A&W Diet Cream Soda were introduced and distributed nationally. Then in 1987, Sugar-Free A&W was reformulated as Diet A&W.

In the March 1995 acquisition of Dr Pepper/Seven-Up Companies, Inc., by Cadbury Schweppes plc, of London, A&W became part of the renamed Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc. Today, regular and Diet A&W Root Beer are the number one root beers in all measurable channels. A&W Cream Soda is the top branded cream soda.

Much has changed since Roy Allen first sold root beer on that summer day in 1919, but the one thing that hasn't is the rich, smooth taste of A&W Root Beer.