Coke or Pepsi? A question that has dominated pop culture since the two rival soft drink companies began producing targeted advertisements in the 1970s. Although they’ve been competing since the dawn of the twentieth century, in 1975, Pepsi developed the ‘Pepsi Challenge,’ in which ordinary consumers would ask which drink they preferred in blind taste tests. But before the ‘Cola War’ began and the classic Michael Jackson commercial aired on TV sets across the U.S., Pepsi had humble beginnings.
In 1890, Caleb Davis Bradham was studying to become a doctor at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine and in his spare time, he worked as a pharmacy apprentice at a local drug store. As fate would have it, a family crisis forced Bradham to return home to North Carolina and halt his medical dreams.
Source: Visit New Bern
After a short stint as a teacher, he opened a drug store in downtown New Bern, North Carolina. Like many drug stores at the time, The Bradham Drug Company also housed a soda fountain, the very place where Pepsi-Cola was invented. Unlike the popular cola of the time, Coca-Cola, which infamously contained cocaine, Bradham set out to create a drink free of stimulants. In 1893, this led him to create, “Brad’s Drink,” a mixture of water, sugar, vanilla, kola nut extract, and oils. Despite the lack of caffeine, it immediately became a sensation in this small southern town.
Source: Creative Beacon
Why is it Called Pepsi?
Five years later in 1898, Bradham renamed his drink to what is now known as “Pepsi-Cola.” The reasoning behind this was to let customers know that it was more than just a refreshment, but in his mind, a “healthy” cola that aided digestion. The word ‘Pepsi’ comes from the root word dyspepsia, which means indigestion.
Source: First Versions
This ‘healthy cola’ continued to thrive into the dawn of the twentieth century and in 1902, the Pepsi-Cola Company was formed due to the syrup’s demand. As the business grew, “Pepsi-Cola” became an official trademark, and by 1904, sales of the syrup reached almost 20,000 gallons. On the trend towards innovation, in 1908, they became one of the first companies to modernize delivery. No longer was Pepsi being distributed from horse drawn carts but motor vehicles. By the end of 1910, Pepsi was being distributed by two hundred and fifty bottlers in 24 states.
It wasn’t until the 1920s when the feud between Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola became clear. Due to fluctuating sugar prices during World War 1, Pepsi had to file for bankruptcy in 1931. Between 1922 and 1931, Coca-Cola offered to purchase the company on three separate occasions, but they declined each time. Who knows, perhaps they would have been called Cosi if the two brands merged.
Since surviving the Great Depression, Pepsi rebounded and continues to vie for dominance in the cola market. Have you ever completed the Pepsi-Coke challenge? Comment below and let us know if you can tell the difference in the fizzy drinks. Thanks for reading why is Pepsi Called Pepsi! #whyisitcalledPepsi
Lauren Dunn is a contributor for Rewind and Capture. With a passion for food and wine she received a degree in agricultural journalism and has put this to use as a cellar apprentice from Italy to Sonoma. When she’s not in the vineyard she’s training for open water swims or catching a flick at the cinema.