This common childhood beverage started as an ice cream topping in 1934.
In 1934, A.W. Leo, Thomas Yeats, and Ralph Harrison had converted an old garage in Fullerton, California, to be their base of operations to formulate various sweet confections. They mixed apple, apricot, guava, orange, papaya, passion fruit and pineapple into thick syrup. Their idea was to use it as an ice cream topping. They called it Leo’s Hawaiian Punch and sold the canned syrup to local grocery stores. It was very popular, especially when people realized that they could mix it with water and have a tropical beverage.
It was 10 years before the company started selling the syrup pre-mixed as a drink. The drink as we know it today was established in 1962 after Hawaiian Punch was purchased by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. They also came up with the characters, Punchy and Oaf. The canned drink originally came in 7 flavors; today there are nearly 20. And, yes, you can still buy the original syrup for ice cream.