History of Plastic ReaLemon & Inventor Irvin Schwartzberg

Website screenshot, 2008.

The big question on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio program today was “Do they still make those lemon juice squeezers that are shaped like lemons?”

It appeared that Seth Liebsohn, who is Bennett’s on air foil (and executive producer) could not find them. Apparently, they weren’t in most Washington, D.C. grocery stores. The only lemon juice that they could find was in jars, and no matter whether the juice is the same, it tastes better if you squirt it out of a plastic lemon.

Thankfully, a number of callers set the record straight. Not only can you still buy lemon juice in plastic lemons, but you can buy lime juice in plastic limes! You just have to look hard. It’s a great Morning in America, but only if America still has plastic lemons.

ReaLemon is made by Dr. Pepper Snapple, formerly part of Cadbury Schweppes. ReaLemon Lemon Juice From Concentrate (their full name) was invented in 1934 by Chicagoan Irvin Swartzberg. ReaLime Juice from Concentrate followed in 1947. Borden bought the company in October of 1962, according to the Chicago Tribune. Schwartzberg died in June of 1984.

ReaLemon was for a time owned by Borden/Eagle, then Mott’s, and is now made in Waterloo, N.Y., according to the Cadbury Schweppes website. According to the Mariani Encyclopedia of American Food, Schwartzberg sold fresh lemon juice to Chicago bars. After he perfected a method of concentrating the juice with water, he began selling it to consumers. It was for a time sold as lemonade concentrate, a sort of liquid Wyler’s.

Today, ReaLemon has many uses. According to the website wackyuses.com, in addition to improving the taste of many a cocktail, it can eliminate blackheads, dandruff, rust stains and other pesky problems.

We would love to know some more history about the late Irvin Schwartzberg, the presumed inventor of the plastic lemon.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website BrandlandUSA.com has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.

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1 Comment

  1. I worked for Irv Swartzberg in the early 70s, when he owned the Toyota distributor for mid-America. He was an anemic boy, and his doctor prescribed lemon juice. He invested RealLemon in his basement, and later began to sell it in his neighborhood. After he sold RealLemon to Borden, he bought a small wine maker called Mogen David, which he later sold for a fortune to Coca-Cola of New York, Coke’s largest bottler. Then, in 1966, he became the first independent distributor of Toyota cars and trucks in the U.S., and was selling more than 100,000 a year when he sold his company back to Toyota in 1975. He lived till 1984. Irv was a very short man, but it was said that he was the tallest man in any room when he sat on his checkbook, built from 3 self-made fortunes.

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