Secret Recipe

Derr’s Soda located in Boonville, Indiana, is famous for its secret recipes that are more than 100 years old. When the family-owned soft drink company closed in 1992, around 300 formulas sat in a safe for several years.

The third-generation owner Charles Derr announced his retirement and the closure in the Boonville Standard writing, “maybe some day someone will bring these products back to you.”

“When we closed, people hated that,” says Barb Derr Byers, one of Charles Derr’s daughters who helped mix the formulas. “People would hoard our vanilla extract. Dad said if you ever restart the business, the two big things are the vanilla extract and the strawberry soda. When we started thinking about reopening, we started asking Dad questions. When Dad got sick and passed, we put it on hold for a year or two.”

In 2009, a fourth generation of the Derr family began bringing products to its customers with the same formulas Derr’s Soda has been using for more than 100 years. Byers’ cousin Joe Derr Jr. and her brother John Derr formed a new company under the name of C.A. Derr and Company, and Pauline Hull Derr, Charles’ widow, gifted the formulas to the company. Today, Derr’s is bottled in Breese, Illinois, (near St. Louis) and sold at various stores in Southern Indiana. Derr’s offers strawberry, cream soda, and orange pineapple flavors, as well as the vanilla extract. Boonville’s T F Ice Cream sells additional flavors on tap. The company also has a variety of fountain drink flavors and syrups for snow cones.

“Our formulas are basically what they were 100 years ago,” says Byers, who makes deliveries all over Vanderburgh, Warrick, and Spencer counties. “We always said we wouldn’t reopen unless we could put it in glass bottles with pure cane sugar. It’s a premium soft drink because we use only the best ingredients.”

Six years after reopening, the children of Pauline and Charles and nephew Joe Derr continue to keep Derr’s going strong.

“When you work a 40-hours-plus job plus this, it’s a labor of love,” says Byers, who also works fulltime at Vertical eXcape Climbing Center. “You have to be passionate about it. And I do love it. Dad would be proud. I wish Dad had stayed around to see.”

For more information about Derr’s Soda, call 812-453-9768 or visit

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