JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -- Long before people started turning to Gatorade and Powerade for an energy boost, Dr. Enuf was providing pep for sluggish residents of northeast Tennessee.
The lemon-lime, vitamin-fortified carbonated drink was introduced in 1949 and developed a strong following in the area, but, curiously, never caught on elsewhere.
Now, its bottler is hoping to change that. A diet version was introduced this year, and distribution has been expanded to include parts of eight states.
After all, Dr. Enuf has something special going for it. It was "the granddaddy" of all nutraceuticals, according to John Sicher, editor of the trade publication Beverage Digest. And nutraceuticals are big business in today's health-conscious society.
Dr. Enuf was developed by Chicago chemist Bill Swartz to aid co-workers who complained of fatigue. It is fortified with B vitamins thiamine and niacin, as well as potassium iodide, caffeine and pure cane sugar, rather than the corn syrup in many soft drinks. It tastes a bit like Sprite or 7-Up, though not as sweet.
Those who like Dr. Enuf swear by it.
John Elliot sells the drink at Cloudland Shell in the town of Roan Mountain and says he drinks a dozen bottles a day.
"There's some of them around here drink a case," Elliot said. "It gives you a big push."
Greg Matthews, assistant manager at the Natural Foods Market in Johnson City, doesn't sell Dr. Enuf, nor is he partial to it.
"It seems to me there is an artificial taste to it that people in health food stores don't like," he said.
After its introduction 49 years ago, 12 distributors sold Dr. Enuf, including ones in New Orleans and St. Louis. It cost 25 cents -- five times more than a regular bottle of soda at the time -- and had a pungent smell because odorless vitamins had yet to be developed. The smell is gone now.
After only a few years, Tri-City Beverage Corp. in Johnson City was the only distributor left selling Dr. Enuf. Now, it is bottled only there.
Plant manager Roger Garland won't say how much is sold each year. But he said volume has increased 800 percent in the last three years as Tri-City Beverage has expanded its area to a 300-mile radius around Johnson City.
The drink now can be bought in and around Nashville; Huntsville, Ala.; some Atlanta suburbs; Greenville, S.C.; Greensboro, N.C.; Roanoke, Va.; Clarksburg, W.Va.; and Whitesburg, Ky.
With so many nutraceuticals on the market today, it's unclear how popular they can become.
"The secret in the beverage business is not to take share from Coke or Pepsi, but to take share from tap water," Sicher said.
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