Pepsi is now one of the most recognizable brands in the world, famous for both its commercials and its battle of the brands with Coca Cola.
The soft drink brand, like most businesses, started with much humbler origins.
It all started over a century ago in a North Carolina pharmacy. The original formula for the drink that would become known as Pepsi was created in 1893 by a pharmacist named Caleb Bradham in New Bern, North Carolina. In the 1890s, many pharmacists operated soda fountains inside their pharmacies. It was in such a fountain that Bradham created his own recipes to serve to customers. Bradham’s biggest hit was simply called “Brad’s drink,” a mix of water, sugar, caramel, kola nuts, and other additives.
Brad’s drink caught on fast, at which point he knew that he needed to give it a cooler name. In what is perhaps among the best branding moves in history, Bradham renamed his drink “Pepsi-Cola.” The name of the drink was trademarked in 1903, and it spread in popularity around North Carolina quickly during the following years. Come 1910, the drink was being sold in 24 states. It was all smooth sailing from that point, as celebrities endorsed the new drink and the brand continued to spread.
The smooth sailing started coming to an end during the First World War. Bradham bet that sugar prices would continue rising during the war, so he kept on buying sugar. Instead of rising, the price of sugar dropped dramatically, leaving Bradham with a sugar inventory that he paid too much for and couldn’t break even with. Pepsi-Cola went bankrupt in 1923, but was bought by Loft Candy Co. in 1931. The brand hit another calamity during the Great Depression, during which Loft even tried to sell Pepsi to Coca-Cola, which refused to make a bid. Loft put Pepsi-Cola through a rebranding, selling 12-ounce bottles for a nickle. This lead to the “nickle nickle” radio jingle, which became one of the most successful global advertising hits of the century.