In 1981 the local Pepsi-Cola Company built a beverage production plant in the Bluefield Industrial park; however, it appears that yet again they didn't end up using it.(3) The same thing happened back in the 1940's in Princeton West Virginia as local historians would have us believe. This is all according to the information included in the brochure for the sale of the plant after its closing in 2012 which also claims that the Kroger Company purchased and operated the plant since 1982.(3) I am of course talking about the Bluefield Beverage Company which through my research I found wasnít included in the local city directory until 1983.(1) The same full page ad addresses what exactly the purpose of this company was. These included "Private label canning and bottling of soft drinks, custom packaging, and franchise canning and bottling".(1) Dick Morath is listed as the first Plant Manager, Larry Macke is Production Manager, and Tom Schell is Sales Manager.(1)

While it is quite true that the company was owned by the Kroger Company for the production of their Big K line of soft drinks, that wasn't the only brand they produced at Bluefield Beverage. It appears that in an effort to help keep the plant running at full capacity a new soft drink brand was trademarked by the Kroger Company on April 17, 1984 which went by the name Rocky Top. The 1984 city directory featured a new ad with the tagline added "Home of Rocky Top Soft Drinks" and Larry Fitzgerald had taken over as sales manager.(1) Soon the company was producing soft drinks for stores other than Kroger, these included earlier brands such as Celebrate, Glendale for Glendale Foods, a grocery chain based in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, and eventually including Inglesí Laura Lynn beverages line, Piggly Wiggly Beverages, and Food Club for the Food City grocery stores.

I didnít include Bluefield Beverage on the website originally, because honestly I thought it was one of those things that had always been there, as far as my lifetime was concerned, and would always be there since they were producing Big K for such a large company as Kroger. Imagine my surprise when Kroger announced in January 2012 that they were shutting down not only a local Kroger grocery store, but Bluefield Beverage as well.(2) I had noticed that Rocky Top which had been everywhere in the nineties was now only to be found in certain places, and after some researching into the trademark I found that it had been cancelled in 2006. The thing is that Bluefield Beverage was producing Rocky Top Beverages until the end; however, I guess it just wasnít selling as well as it had before.

Bluefield Beverage closed its doors on April 27, 2012 and well over a century of bottling history in the Bluefields was over. The Bluefield Beverage plant was advertised for sale, but unfortunately it hadnít received any buyers. An auction was planned for July 24, 2013, during which Leland Blankenship purchased the building, while another person purchased what was left of the bottling equipment, in hopes to entice a new company to purchase the building to bring jobs back to Bluefield.(2) As for the Rocky Top trademark, it was picked up by Rocky Top Beverages of Salisbury North Carolina in 2012; however, abandoned in 2013.





The Bluefield Beverage plant



These are the earliest design for the Rocky Top brand. The Cola and Lemon-Lime are dated 1986



From their earliest days it appears that Bluefield Beverage was producing plastic two liter bottles as well and you can see from this plastic label for Rocky Top Cola.



A Rocky Top Soft Drink Belt Buckle



Here we can see a transition of the updated label design on the older style aluminum can, no date visable.



In 1988 the company started using a new can with a tapered top and added the tag line "Made with Blue Ridge Mountain Water" to the label.









Bluefield Beverage also produced other brands besides Rocky Top and Big K, as you can see by these Celebrate brand sodas. There is no date on them; however, 1988-89 was a period when the steel companies were desperately trying to recapture the soda market they had lost to the aluminum companies. These appear to be steel cans which would put them around this period.



While we are discussing the late 80ís steel cans, the question has to be in your mind if Rocky Top was produced in them. The answer is yes, I own one; however, I have yet to find one from Bluefield Beverage. When I won this one off of Ebay, I thought it was from Bluefield, but what I discovered when I received it only led to more questions. The can stated that it was produced by the Garland Beverage Company in Garland, Texas.

I always thought that Rocky Top was a local brand to Bluefield. Apparently not, Garland Beverage Company was another Kroger owned beverage producer in Texas. I wonder how long they produced the brand as Iíve only seen one Rocky Top can from there. The source I got the information on the company from covered the period from 1988-1994.









Glendale Cola packaged for Glendale Foods Inc. of Belle Vernon, PA in 1988.









Glendale Grape soda packaged for Glendale Foods Inc. of Belle Vernon, PA.









The year 1989 was the centennial of Bluefield West Virginia, and Bluefield Beverage produced the only Rocky Top commemorative can series that I know about.









Diet Cola 1989 centennial commemorative can.









Lemon Lime can from the early 90's.



A few cans from 1990. The Cherry Lemon Lime is an odd one.









12oz Big K Diet Cherry Cola and Root Beer from Bluefield Beverage.



Rocky Top Soft Drinks golf ball.



By the mid-nineties beverage producers had to include nutritional information on their cans this meant that the Rocky Top logo had to be shrunk in order to make room as this 1995 example shows.



When I heard that Bluefield Beverage was being closed down, I went out and picked up a small variety of their final can design, including their Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew imitator brands, Dr. Topper and Citrus Drop. Citrus Drop of course sharing its name with Big Kís verison.



I also picked up some lesser known flavors like their Sweet Flavored Ginger Ale. I found that flavor in only one store while hunting down examples for the collection.



Citrus Drop two liter label from the last days of the brand.



1984 ad for Bluefield Beverage Company "Home of Rocky Top Soft Drinks"



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Biblography:

(1) Polk's Bluefield City Directory

(2) Bluefield Daily Telegraph

(3) Food Facilities Group Brochure