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A pharmacist from Atlanta, called Dr. John Pemberton, created a soda of a new kind – one that you could actually drink and enjoy! This was in 1886, and the world never looked back from that day onwards. Nonetheless, the addictive drink that all of us can’t do without today, was not always this way. Right from the distinctive taste to the equally singular bottle, the drink, rather brand, has gone through several alterations with years gone by.

Coca Cola and Pepsi have been bitterly involved in a battle for more than a hundred years. To call it a war is more appropriate and it is legendary. Fights regularly take on a personal touch. Pepsi has been known to pick on Coke’s famed mascots, Santa and the polar bears. People believe it was bound to happen, as they are both cola giants, with Pepsi even making food products. Yet both want to be No. 1 in the cola category. The evolution of Coke and Pepsi over the past hundred years or so has seen many highs and lows, but they’re both popular to this day.

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Original recipes

In 1893, a cola was invented by a pharmacist, Caleb Bradham. Initially called Brad’s drink, it was renamed Pepsi Cola in 1898.

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Most of the ingredients of both colas were the same, except Coke used citric acid and Pepsi used phosphoric acid. The other ingredients included caramel, vanilla, lime juice, sugar, caffeine and some water. Some varieties of essential oils were also used. Pepsi was created to compete with Coke. By the time it was on the shelves, Coke was already selling a million gallons per year. When it first went on sale, Coca Cola only cost 5 cents.

Coke moves ahead

In 1892, Asa Candler bought out the rights to Coke and incorporated Coca Cola. Candler was the key to Coke’s strategic advertising campaigns for years. In 1900, Hilda Clark, a popular musician, became the first celebrity to endorse the drink. By 1904, Coca Cola’s annual sales went far above a million gallons. In 1906, Canada, Panama and Cuba started Coke bottling plants. In the same year, a lucky one for the Coca Cola Company, D’Arcy Advertising began a 50-year relationship with the soft drink giant. In 1902, Bradham incorporated the Pepsi Cola Company. The cola became very popular, giving some sleepless nights to the Coca Cola Company. The company was moderately prosperous.

Pepsi Cola moves on

In the year 1910, Pepsi Cola had franchises in twenty-four states of the USA. The company sold more than 100,000 gallons of the drink in a year. In 1907, Coke had started using athletes to advertise the drink. These were noteworthy baseball stars. While Coke was expanding its global reach, and opening operations in the Philippines in 1912, Pepsi was trudging along at a comfortable pace. In 1915, Coca Cola introduced its iconic contour bottle, and in 2016, Asa Candler retired from the company.

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Coke sees success

In 1919, Coke was bought by Ernest Woodruff and a group of investors. The price was $25 million, a whopping amount for those days. In 1923, Coke was headed by Robert Woodruff, who led the company to soaring heights for the next 60 years. In 1923, Pepsi was in the doldrums, going bankrupt due to the rationing of sugar as a result of the First World War. In 1928, Pepsi Cola was bought out by Craven Holdings and its headquarters was officially located at Virginia. In 1931, the company went officially bankrupt once more. Charles Guth became president of the company in the same year, after Coke refused to permit him a franchise to sell their drinks at his chain of candy stores. He invested heavily in the company and was a major shareholder.

After World War I

Guth had a pharmacist create a new Pepsi drink, with a new formula, emphasizing the taste.

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In a bid to revamp its branding and at least be on par with Coke, the Pepsi Cola Company came about with an effective string of print advertisements. In 1933, Pepsi bottles of 12oz were being sold for 5 cents a bottle. In 1938, Walter Mack was hired as the new president of the company. At the same time, Coke was expanding its worldwide operations and was established in Australia, Austria, Norway and South Africa.

The Pepsi jingle

With a great deal of foresight, Pepsi, in 1939, launched its first advertisement in the form of a catchy jungle. It was nicknamed “Nickel, nickel”. Later, it was officially renamed to “Pepsi-Cola Hits the Spot”. Pepsi was in the game now and shipped over 1 million copies of the record with the jingle on it to jukeboxes. In 1940, just as World War I began to take shape, Walter Mack bought a sugar plantation to prevent the company from experiencing the brunt of war imposed sugar rationing.

The year 1941 saw Pepsi introducing a brand-new logo with red, white and blue in it. This was a smart move and showed support of America’s participation in the war. In 1945, “Coke” became a trademark of the Coca-Cola company and it was registered as such. Its later logos were an extension of this. In 1945, Pepsi did another innovative thing. The company started selling its signature drink in cans.

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The 40s, 50s and 60s

In 1946, Coke increased its price for the first time. People still bought it, but more people started paying attention to Pepsi too. In 1950, Coke introduced its first television advertisement. It was broadcast as a long-form first advertisement on CBS television. In the same year, Pepsi saw a landmark achievement as well. Al Steele was the president then. His wife happened to be the big Hollywood star, Joan Crawford. She turned the tide of the company by her publicity stunts.

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In 1953, the Coca Cola Company brought out a jingle called “Coke Time”. It was so popular that records had to be made of it.

The year 1956 saw McCann Erickson replacing the D’Arcy company as Coca Cola’s advertising agency. The “swirl” bottle was introduced by Pepsi in 1958 with the tagline. “Be Sociable, Have a Pepsi.” Pepsi had grown by now, with subsidiaries in 120 countries and more in the global pipeline. In 1959, Coke was being bottled in 100 countries. In the same year, Vice President Nixon and the Soviet leader Khrushchev were photographed sipping Pepsi-Colas in Moscow. This made headlines. Pepsi then went on to launch an advertisement campaign with a focus on the youth. Coke, in the 60s, acquired the Minute Maid company, had its brand in a movie, and introduced its lemonade, called “Sprite”. Frito-Lay and Pepsi merged in the 60s to create PepsiCo.

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In 1963, Coke launched its diet version, and Pepsi followed a year later. Mountain Dew was bought over by Pepsi in the same year, 1964. By this time, both companies were voraciously fighting with each other to get to the top and stay there. Ad campaigns alone went into millions of dollars being spent, with jingles and print ads. Doritos was introduced to the USA in 1966, and Pepsi was launched in Japan and Eastern Europe. Coke created a new red and white image in 1969, with its unforgettable “Its the Real Thing” slogan.

Then and now

If you look at the stock values of Coke and Pepsi and compare the two over the years from the 70s to the 2000s, you will see a peak for the Coca Cola Company in the 1990s. In the 2000s, Pepsi has been overtaking Coke by a small margin, and now, the two are neck and neck. A successful foray into the snack food business was a boon for Pepsi, when it merged with Frito-Lay. This has helped take its stock price up significantly. The Coca Cola Company, nonetheless, has managed very well with just beverages under its banner.

The stuff that Coke owns is Minute Maid, Dasani, Nestea, Fanta, to name some products under its banner. Fifteen of these have reached retail sales of $1 billion or more. That figure is on the rise. Pepsi, though not as robust in the beverage branding area, is hugely successful with its snack food industry. Pepsi Co. owns Ruffles, Cheetos, Doritos, Tostito, Lays, Quaker, Tropicana, and Aquafina, to name a few of its brands. In terms of market share, Coke has a definitive lead over Pepsi. Nevertheless, Pepsi has multiple businesses that rake in more money.


Both brands have a celebrity brigade rooting for them. Pepsi has been endorsed by Hollywood legends in the film and music world, from Joan Crawford, to Michael Jackson. In the 90s, the Spice Girls were the face of Pepsi. Stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, David Beckham, Christina Aguilera, Nicki Minaj and Kendall Jenner have all been associated with Pepsi branding. Coke has had its fair share of celebrities on its side too. They range from LeBron James, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Kwan, and Wayne Rooney to Selena Gomez, Maroon 5 and Will.I.Am.