Imagine if you could drop an effervescent tablet into a glass of water and turn it into an instant soda. For the generation growing up during the late 1950s and 1960s, that notion was a reality called Fizzies. They were small candy tablets that effervesced when dropped into a glass of cold water. Although marketed primarily to children, the tablets were also popular among adults as sugar-free alternatives to traditional soft drinks.
During the 1950s, the Emerson Drug Company held a significant portion of the effervescent pain reliever market with a product called Bromo-Seltzer. Chemists working for Emerson experimented with adding fruit flavors to the tablets, and in 1957, released the first line of Fizzies. Original tablets came in several different fruit flavors, such as orange and grape, along with traditional soda flavors such as root beer. Fizzies were usually sold in packs of eight, although some retailers sold them individually as penny candies.
Fizzies became extremely popular during the 1960s, due in part to a popular marketing campaign and premiums such as paper hats. Parents enjoyed the sugar-free aspect of the candy, and children enjoyed watching the process as the tablets dissolved in water. Some adventurous customers even bypassed the water altogether and placed the tablets directly on their tongues, foreshadowing the days of other carbonated candies.
Unfortunately for millions of Fizzies fans, the last pack rolled off the line in 1969. The chemists at Emerson Drug Company had used a form of artificial sweetener called cyclamates. Cyclamates were the only sweeteners capable of forming a stable bond with the other chemicals used to create Fizzies. Tests performed on animals during the 1960s established a link between cyclamates and certain cancers, which led to a permanent ban in the United States in 1969. Retailers were allowed to sell their remaining stock through 1970.
Fizzies seemed destined to become just another food fad, but public interest did not completely die out. The Emerson Drug Company could not find a substitute sweetener, but at one point, the new owners of the formula, Warner-Lambert Pharmaceuticals, offered an unsweetened version. Consumers were asked to add sugar and ice. In the 1990s, an attempt was made to resurrect the original Fizzies using the artificial sweetener aspartame. The product was clearly not the same as the original, causing the manufacturers to cease production after a few years.
Recently, online vintage candy stores have been promoting a reformulated version of Fizzies sweetened with sucralose. Seven flavors are currently offered in this new formulation, along with the original amount of additional vitamin C. The originals may never return in their vintage form, but at least a new generation can experience the wonders of watching water turn into soda pop.