Food and Drink For Members

How can we explain the Swiss obsession with the drink Rivella?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
How can we explain the Swiss obsession with the drink Rivella?
Rivella, as much loved in Switzerland as cheese and chocolate? Photo: Rivella media office

It is easy to fall in love with chocolate and cheese, but loving another Swiss favourite — Rivella — may take some time.


What, you have never heard of Rivella, the fizzy drink made from milk whey?

Although far lesser known abroad than in Switzerland, and therefore not as generally associated with  “Swissness” as, say, Toblerone chocolate or Gruyère cheese, Rivella is nevertheless a Swiss invention.

It is very popular, even though, unbeknownst to most people, it was actually concocted in a bathroom (spoiler alert: it wasn’t as bad as it sounds — see below).

The Swiss have been drinking this carbonated beverage since 1952, when Robert Barth, a law student from Zurich, finally fine-tuned his recipe for a new soda. He had experimented with various ingredients in the bathroom of his home, before finally getting just the right proportion of milk serum, herb extracts, water, caramelised sugar, and various minerals.

But is Rivella — so named after the town of Riva San Vitale in Ticino and the Italian name for revelation (rivelazione) — really a quintessential Swiss drink?

It is.

Not only was it invented in Switzerland by a Swiss, but it also contains about 35 percent of milk whey, so we can only assume that (Swiss) cows were also involved in its production.


What does Rivella taste like?

The taste of original beverage (the one sold in red bottles) has been described as “gingery,” “candy-like”, and “fruity.”
It definitely doesn’t taste like milk, though.

This video shows how Americans react to Rivella.

How many flavours of Rivella are there?

Besides the original red-label (“gingery”) one, there’s also Blue (with fewer calories), as well as Green Tea, Mango and Rhubarb.

Thankfully, they are no longer produced in Barth’s bathroom but in a factory in Rothrist, canton Aargau.

How does one drink Rivella in Switzerland?

Pretty much the same way as other sodas like Coca-Cola or fizzy mineral water — warm.
In general, the Swiss are not fond of ice or very cold drinks, claiming it causes sore throats.

Where can Rivella be purchased?

Literally everywhere where food and beverages are sold.

However, this drink is very difficult — if not impossible — to find outside of Switzerland.

In 2005, Rivella exported a limited number of bottles to the United States, where it was marketed as a niche health product.

However, even though the US is a huge soda market, the experiment …fizzled out within a year, and the bottles were withdrawn from the shelves.

The reason for the flat sales was that “Rivella was completely unknown in the US," company spokesperson Monika Christener said at the time.
"Swiss people, on the other hand, grow up with Rivella; they are almost as familiar with it as breast milk."

And here's another typical food that mostly likely only the Swiss like:
What is Aromat and why are the Swiss so obsessed with it?



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