Pepsi Vs. Coke: 19 Surprising Truths About The Cola Wars

Coca-Cola Was Selling 1 Million Gallons Per Year When Pepsi Started

Originally created in 1886 by scientist Dr. John S. Pemberton, Coca-Cola was the third carbonated soda of its time. Following the root beer and Dr. Pepper innovations, Coca-Cola managed to generate annual sales of 1 million gallons per year by 1904.

Considering Pepsi wasn’t invented until 1989, Coca-Cola already had a significant jump on the market by the time it came around. Just two years after Pepsi announced its presence, Coca-Cola had already tapped into the celebrity market with the famous face of musician Hilda Clark as the first to endorse the delicious and successful product.

Brad’s Drink

A lot of people do not know that when Pepsi-Cola was originally introduced to the market, it was under the name “Brad’s Drink” in 1893. Invented by pharmacist Caleb Bradham in New Burn, North Carolina, the concoction was originally supposed to treat digestive issues and stomachaches through the enzymes pepsin and kola nuts that are used in the recipe and was exclusively sold out of his drugstore.

Later, Bradham changed the name to Pepsi-Cola, after the enzymes mentioned above, when he finally introduced it to the market five years after its birth.

Coca-Cola Turns Down Pepsi 3 Times

Toward the beginning of its ride, Pepsi was making huge strides selling more than 100,000 gallons of syrup a year, but by 1923, Bradham was bankrupt and on the verge of losing the business.

In hopes of merging the two brands, Coca-Cola was propositioned to buy out the dying company as it was in the stages of expanding to Europe but declined the offer. Deciding to focus on its expansion, Coca-Cola was even offered the Pepsi-Cola empire two more times but the brand still didn’t want any part of Pepsi.

Pepsi Went Bankrupt Twice

During the Great Depression, Pepsi suffered from the massive sugar shortage and price increase. Considering Bradham was no businessman, he admitted defeat in 1923 and Pepsi was sold to Craven Holdings Corp in Virginia.

Just three years later, the company went bankrupt for the second time and was bought out by Loft Inc. president Charles G. Guth after dropping out from the Coca-Cola brand. Charles managed to rebirth the dying realm and was able to bottle the delicious drink at 5 cents a bottle by 1933. Both times the company went bankrupt, Coca-Cola was approached but declined to absorb the competitor.

Coca-Cola Airs First Television Advertisement

Starting in the ’50s, Coca-Cola owned the advertisement world with the first-ever television commercial on CBS during the Thanksgiving Day’s half-hour special. Featured before ’50s star actor and comedian Edgar Bergen’s show, the ad ran for 56 seconds encouraging the audience to grab a refreshing Coca-Cola before it started.

By 1953, “Coke Time” was played on both the radio and television commercials, a whole five years before Pepsi’s worldwide popular ad campaign “Be Sociable, Have a Pepsi” aired. And, of course, by this time Coca-Cola was formally known as “Coke” as a registered trademark of the company since 1945.

Pepsi Merges With Frito-Lay

The biggest move that the Pepsi brand ever made was its decision in 1965 to merge with the ever popular brand Frito-Lay Inc. With the merge came the new brand name that we still refer to today as PepsiCo and marked Pepsi as the only beverage company to consolidate with food products.

This was Pepsi’s first official step in what we call the “Cola Wars,” with an attempt to tap into a market Coca-Cola had not yet tampered with. As of 2012, PepsiCo’s brands have generated sales exceeding more than $1 million each, they are distributed across more than 200 countries and obtain annual net revenues of $43.3 billion! We think it’s safe to say that Pepsi is doing just fine.

Pepsi Wins Cola Wars Taste Test

In an attempt to prove which product was most popular among the public, the two brands engaged in blind taste testings in 1975. Considering the drinks had an identical appearance outside of the packaging and branding, it was impossible to differentiate between the two. PepsiCo started calling this the “Take the Pepsi Challenge” and consistently beat out Coca-Cola for 25 years.

Although Coca-Cola had a much wider brand name compared to Pepsi, it apparently tasted better to the public and Pepsi used that to their advantage as much as they could in both commercials and advertisements.

Pepsi Offends China With Slogan

In an attempt to appeal to the Chinese public, PepsiCo came up with a campaign called “Come Alive with Pepsi” in 1980. Unfortunately for the company, the direct Chinese translation came out to “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave,” so they were not able to utilize the new slogan for fear of losing China’s market and interest in Pepsi products.

Considering the country’s indistinguishable reputation to favor elders and ancestors in tradition, it definitely would not have been a smart move by Pepsi. Needless to say, the campaign was pulled immediately after these findings.

PepsiCo Is Threatened By The KKK

In 1940, Pepsi’s president Walter Mack decided to tap into the untouched African-American market through television advertisement. Unfortunately, the world was not yet agreeing with Walter’s vision, at the time of the Jim Crow laws, and refused the potential bridge with the segregated race.

The Ku Klux Klan sent numerous death threats to the company’s headquarters following the famous airing of the controversial campaign commercial that portrayed US Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. Ironically, however, the campaign worked in favor of PepsiCo and increased the product share dramatically, but out of fear of losing the white- American market it was immediately was dropped.

Coke Is Boycotted For Anti-Semitism

There is an interesting story behind the country Israel in relation to Coca-Cola. In 1948, the Arab League arranged a boycott against the company demanding the choice to sell products to either Arabs or Israelis. After trying to establish a plant in Israel in 1949, Coca-Cola was blocked by the Israeli government but Coke didn’t seem to mind too much. Unfortunately for the company, the Egypt plant manager of Coca-Cola issued a formal statement claiming that Coke would never do business with Israel, thus initiating the boycott of Coca-Cola by Israelis.

Coca-Cola was then formally accused of being anti-Semitic for choosing to do business with the Arabs over Israel on April 1, 1966. For years Jewish establishments stopping serving the beverage until Coca-Cola eventually gave in and opened a bottling plant in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, in order to please the Israelis, they had to lose the Arabs and soon after the plant was formed, they found themselves on the Arab League’s Boycott List in 1968.

Pepsi’s Battle With Israel

Just when Coca-Cola was accepted by the Jewish community again, PepsiCo leaped to the Arab community in support to capitalize on their rival’s recent boycott issues. Although Pepsi made it clear that they were not avoiding doing business with Israel throughout Coca Cola’s struggle, the Jewish community convinced the American public that they were refusing to do business with them anyways.

After no evidence was provided that Pepsi was being anti-Semitic, they opened a plant in Israel in 1992 and pissed off every Jewish person alive. When airing a commercial that portrayed the evolution of man with a monkey evolving into a human, the Israeli public was highly offended feeling that they were being compared to monkeys. Following this, the commercial was pulled and eventually the company lost their Kosher license and any hope for a reconciliation with Israel.

Coca-Cola Provides Medical Relief

Although it has been shown that the soda can remove rust, it was originally advertised to cure stomach problems and hangovers. But, something that you may not know is that Coca-Cola can also be used to reduce pain when experiencing a painful bite or sting.

Due to its highly acidic content, Coke can help reduce and remove the venom left from a bite or even can be used to remove insect saliva that causes us to itch after being bitten. In particular, bee stings, wasp stings, and mosquito bites are among the options that Coca-Cola can help to soothe.

Coca-Cola Creates Santa

Although we know Santa Clause as the big man in a red coat, Coca-Cola is actually responsible for the generic physical representation of Santa Clause. Based off of St. Nick in the religion of Catholicism, the abandoned, wealthy teenager was said to have given portions of his gold to those that needed it.

Under a similar story, Santa Clause is traditionally known to give toys to good little girls and boys, but never was portrayed as a bearded old man with a jolly gut, big red suit and rosy cheeks until Coca-Cola portrayed him this way. How crazy is that?!

Coca-Cola Buys Out Beverage Brands

Even though the red and white Coke can is the signature way of recognizing the brand, Coca Cola owns 3.1% of the world’s beverages. With names like Vitamin Water, Smart Water, Minute Maid, Dasani, Fanta, Capri Sun, Powerade, Rockstar, Odwalla, Sprite, Fresca, Hi-C, Barq’s Root Beer, Simply Orange and so many more, Coca Cola basically owns the beverage industry; we mean that figuratively and literally.

Throughout the years since it’s establishment in 1886, Coca Cola has consistently owned the soft drink market and is constantly growing, but still has yet to follow in the footsteps of competitor PepsiCo and merge into the snack market.

Pepsi Buys Out Food Brands

Coca Cola may be running the beverage scene, but PepsiCo is significantly owning the snack food business. To name a few of their famous brands- Sun Chips, Ruffles, Rice a Roni, Cracker Jack, Cheetos, Aunt Jemima, Naked, Tostitos, Life, Fritos, Doritos, Capn’ Crunch, and Quaker. Unlike Pepsi, Coca Cola never decided to merge into the snack market.

According to Forbes in 2015, “the foods business, comprising the likes of Frito-Lay and Quaker Foods, formed 53% of the net revenues last year for PepsiCo. While sales for the snacks division have risen at a CAGR of 3.5% over the last three years, sales for the drinks division have declined at a CAGR of 3.2%.” So, you see it’s a good thing that Pepsi decided to make that move.

These Stars Have Endorsed Coca-Cola

As the most famous beverage brand on the market, Coca Cola has welcomed some of the biggest names in the industry to endorse its delicious taste. Celebrities like LeBron James, Mean Joe Greene, Penélope Cruz, Courteney Cox, Michelle Kwan, Wayne Rooney, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Christina Aguilera, Paula Abdul and Kobe Bryant are just some of the incredibly famous celebs that have Coke’s back.

Even the hip swinging King Elvis Presley was one of the very first faces to support the brand on his last ever tour in 1977. The Beatles, Elton John, David Bowie, and Whitney Houston were the biggest musicians to ever bring the product’s image to life.

These Stars Have Endorsed PepsiCo

Michael Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, the Spice Girls, Shakira, Shania Twain, Beyoncé, Jackie Chan, Enrique Iglesias, Tiger Woods, Britney Spears and Madonna are just a few of the many celebrities that have chosen to endorse PepsiCo. One of the greatest things about the branding of PepsiCo is its open mindedness to all walks of life, different countries and cultures.

Some of the more “traditional” musical names that promoted the PepsiCo product include Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige and even Queen’s “We Will Rock You” cover set in a roman gladiator arena. Although Coca-Cola was known for primarily having professional athletes as their endorsers, Pepsi welcomed Jeff Gordon, Drew Brees, and even the great Sammy Sosa over the years.

PepsiCo Endorsements Go Wrong

Despite the big names that Pepsi has used to generate sales and exposure of the brand, there is always a chance that something can go wrong. For instance, Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5 were requested to endorse the product for the “new generation” to “Billie Jean”, but one of the stunts during the commercial filming went awry and left Michael with a bad burn.

In an attempt to bridge off of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” fame, Pepsi asked the performer to endorse the brand which resulted in charges of an anti- Catholicism suit to the company. But, as they say, the show must go on.

Pepsi Stole Santa

Knowing full well that Coca Cola was the proud owner of the Santa Claus and Christmas themed advertisement, Pepsi did the unthinkable in 2011. Showing a commercial that displayed Santa Claus rejecting a Coca-Cola and chugging a Pepsi on a beach vacation with the slogan “Summer Time Is PEPSI Time.”

Just as Santa was practically the property of Coke, the polar bear was also exclusively advertised in the company, which Pepsi also decided to steal in a similar commercial promoting PepsiCo over Coca-Cola. Even still the war between the two brands persists since its 1970’s origin and doesn’t seem to have an end in sight, who will win the never ending battle of beverages?

The Little Girl in the Pepsi Commercials Was a Hit

Pepsi hit a home run when they selected Hallie Eisenberg to appear in their television commercials in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The cute girl with the adorable dimples goes Godfather on the waiter when he gives her a Coke instead of the Pepsi that she asked for, and it is hilarious.

After her Pepsi gig, Eisenberg went on to play roles in Bicentennial Manwith the late Robin Williams and Disney’s film on Hellen Keller’s life, The Miracle Worker. Her brother is also an actor, Jesse Eisenberg who plays Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.

Pepsi Owns Cold Bottled Starbucks Drinks

Did you know that PepsiCo owns those delicious Frappacinos at Starbucks? Any ready-to-drink bottled beverage at Starbucks is actually a Pepsi product! In 1994 the two companies established the NACP (North American Coffee Partnership) that introduced drinks like the beloved Frapp to the public as the first ready-made, cold beverage.

The relationship between the two seems to prosper as Starbucks provides the manufacturing for the products and PepsiCo the distribution. Since the Pepsi logo does not appear on the bottles and packages, most people think that Starbucks exclusively distributes these drinks, but now you know the truth.