Cheerwine Given Cherry Image Makeover; Label Relaunch aids Midwest Expansion

Move over, Black Cherry Vanilla Coke, Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper and other sodas with “cherry” in their names.

That’s the message the Salisbury-based company that makes Cheerwine aims to send with new labels launched in uptown Charlotte Wednesday.

The 89-year-old Southern icon has redesigned its label for the first time in over 10 years. It now features cherries and a seal reading “The Original Since 1917.”

It’s an effort to stake a claim as the original cherry-flavored soda, said Cliff Ritchie, president of Cheerwine Bottling Co.

The new design also was sparked by the company’s move last year to expand into Indiana, Illinois and other areas.

Cheerwine is holding its own in the $68 billion-a-year soda business, said John Sicher, editor and publisher of trade publication Beverage Digest. Overall soft-drink sales were down 0.2 percent but Cheerwine’s were up 5 percent. The privately held company doesn’t disclose its sales figures.

The label is being launched at a series of giveaways in core markets. Uptown workers grabbed free bottles at Founder’s Hall on Wednesday.

Mario Dzidzra, born in Yugoslavia and a Charlottean for about five years, wasn’t impressed by his first taste. “I think Coke’s better,” he said.

But Zenith Campbell, of Cheerwine’s hometown of Salisbury, had the company’s hoped-for reaction: “It’s truly one-of-a-kind.”