Mahaska Bottling Company has a long history that dates back to the late 1800’s.
The rich American tradition that is Mahaska begins with James WV. McKinley and U.S. Patent No. 418,469 dated December 31, 1889. McKinley was a forefather of the bottling industry with his hand-pump and barrel attachment representing one of the initial manufacturing innovations that coincided with the invention of the oldest carbonated soft-drink brands.
McKinley used his innovation to found Mahaska Bottling Works, producing Strawberry and Root Beer soft drink flavors under the Chief Mahaska Flavors brand. In 1912, McKinley took on a partner in U.G. Deck. In 1916, the passing of U.G. Deck afforded Harry Morgan the opportunity to purchase Mahaska Bottling Works. Harry Morgan was the first in the current line of Mahaska proprietors and was responsible for transforming Mahaska Bottling Works into the fully integrated manufacturing operation that was Mahaska Bottling Company—the first step in our transformation into the modern day Mahaska.
Under Morgan as President, Mahaska Bottling Company expanded its operations from Oskaloosa to Washington, Marshalltown, Ottumwa, Centerville, and Newton. In 1922, Arnold Muhl joined Morgan in the business after being wed to Morgan’s daughter Zayda. In 1928, Morgan & Muhl took an exclusive franchise appointment for a rapidly growing soft-drink brand called Pepsi-Cola invented by pharmacist Caleb Bradham in 1893 (originally named “Brad’s Drink”).
In 1947, Morgan passed and Arnold took over as President. Thereafter, John Muhl, who served as a United States Army Ranger in B Company in World War II, joins his father Arnold in the operation and further expansion of Mahaska Bottling Company. Between 1949 and 1958, Pepsi-Cola brand sales surged 167% nationally, and Arnold & John grew Mahaska Bottling Company significantly beyond mere Pepsi-Cola brand sales.
On September 9, 1961, Mahaska Bottling Company opened a state-of-the-art bottling plant in Oskaloosa that was one of the most modern in the Midwest. The fully automated 26,000 square foot facility supplied over half a million cases per year at a production rate of 650 cases/hour. The facility produced several products that were the subject of Mahaska Bottling Company franchise appointments including Pepsi-Cola, Nesbit Orange, Grapette, Hires Root Beer, Bubble-Up, and Squirt in addition to brands sold under the Mahaska trademark.
Led by John Muhl and his son Brad (aptly named after Caleb Bradham’s invention), Mahaska Bottling Company acquired additional bottling facilities in Kansas (1975) and Nebraska (1981). These acquisitions were the first step in the transformation of Mahaska Bottling Company into the modern Mahaska.
In 1988, Mahaska became a shareholder of the bottling cooperative Wis-Pak (www.wis-pak.com), consolidating the manufacturing process for all locations, streamlining supply chain management, and achieving economies of scale. Today, Independent Bottlers account for almost 20% of North American volume where Wis-Pak handles 10% of the North American Pepsi Americas Beverages (PAB) volume and over 40% of independent volume.
In 1993, Brad Muhl purchased Mahaska Bottling Company from John Muhl, consolidating ownership under a sole proprietor for the first time since Harry Morgan. Brad fulfilled several brand company responsibilities which included the position of Chairman of the Pepsi-Cola Company Marketing Committee (MARCOM). One of his goals in that position was to preserve the independent bottling system and the rights of its franchisees all over the world. In addition, Brad grew the business aggressively—achieving an industry leading market share versus competitors as well as embarking on several business development ventures such as full-line vending and coffee that are a core part of the business and its future growth today.
In 2013, Branden Muhl, son of Brad Muhl, became President and CEO of the company, continuing the tradition initiated by Harry Morgan and Brad Muhl of consolidated ownership under a single leader. Branden is expounding upon Brad’s business development efforts including building an independently owned brand portfolio, engaging in territorial expansion, and branding Mahaska.
Today, Mahaska continues to embark on its transition into a fully integrated manufacturing and distribution platform offering a wide array of products and services. We honor our rich American history by continuing the forward motion that will ensure the enhancement of the Mahaska tradition for generations to come.