There has been a war raging on for decades. It has destroyed friendships, turned loved ones against one another and, mildly inconvenienced restaurant patrons. Coke and Pepsi, which one is better. Some prefer the classic Coca-Cola taste while others would rather the sleek and newer Pepsi. But what exactly sets these two apart, what makes them so different? Well, let us first dive into their history.
Believe it or not, the original Coca-Cola was introduced to the public all the way back in 1886, 134 years ago, and it was created by a confederate colonel named John Pemberton. After being wounded in the American Civil War with a terrible addiction to morphine, Pemberton used his medical degree to find a substitute for his drug problem. In 1885, at his own drugstore, he created a nerve tonic called French Wine Coca which was inspired by a French-Corsican coca wine.
However, in 1886, after the prohibition legislation passed in Fulton County, Pemberton had to think of a solution to his new wine tonic. He responded with a non-alcoholic version of his French Wine Coca, marketed as “Coca-Cola: The temperance drink.” While this drink was popular, it wasn’t exactly a great substitution to morphine due to its high amounts of cocaine and caffeine. At a certain point, it was estimated that a single glass of cola contained a total of nine milligrams of cocaine and 34 milligrams of kola nuts (or caffeine). The actual recipe has been altered since then to not be so dangerous to one’s health.
Pepsi, on the other hand, was surprisingly created not too long after Coca-Cola. Introduced first as “Brad’s Drink” in 1893 by pharmacist and creator Caleb Bradham. He concocted this drink with an experimentation of cola nuts and spices and a few other ingredients that included sugar and vanilla. However, in 1898, Bradham renamed his invention to Pepsi-Cola; “Pepsi” because it was advertised in his pharmacy to relieve dyspepsia (indigestion or an upset stomach) and “Cola” which referred to the cola flavour. There were even estimates that Pepsi was a reference to the drink aiding digestion like the digestive enzyme pepsin, but pepsin was never used in the original recipe.
Eventually, in 1903, Bradham moved selling Pepsi-Cola from his own pharmacy to other avenues. He ended up selling approximately 19,848 gallons of his product in six-ounce bottles. Unfortunately, despite the drink reaching heights in popularity, the company faced bankruptcy in 1923 due to the financial losses of World War I. Assets had to be sold off and the trademark was bought by a businessman named Roy C. Megargel, who was unsuccessful in reviving the company, only for Charles Guth, the president of Loft Inc. stepping. After the Coca-Cola Company refused to give him additional discounts on syrup, Guth has his chemists reformulate the Pepsi-Cola syrup formula.
Pepsi-Cola eventually grew more in popularity during the Great Depression in 1934 with the introduction of the 12-ounce bottle. With clever radio advertising and double the volume, people were hooked on the product. This marketing continued through the decades, eventually leading to the In 1961, the product being shortened to Pepsi in 1961, the name we all associate it with today. The popularity of Pepsi eventually began a feud so heated between PepsiCo. and Coca-Cola that it was dubbed the Cola Wars.
While Coca-Cola’s advertising was always aimed wholesomeness and family values, something seen even today with the tagline “Taste the Feeling.” However, this was not the case during the Cola Wars of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Coca-Cola was losing quite a bit of market to Pepsi, so they resorted targeted marketing campaigns for the direct competition. This led to Coca-Cola creating a new product called “New Coke” which was heavily rejected and Pepsi starting their famous blind taste test advertisements.
These competitions also led to a bunch of spin-offs of their original recipe include diet/sugar-free, caffeine-free, lemon-lime, vanilla, orange and too many others to list. These types of competitions have continued to go on until most recently in 2005 with Coca-Cola retaliating Pepsi’s online promotion, “Pepsi Stuff” with Coke Rewards. However, this still doesn’t answer the question of what the true difference in Pepsi and Coca-Cola is today.
Well, in the matters of taste, one simple ingredient is the defining factor here. According to experts, Pepsi has more of a citrus taste while Coca-Cola’s taste, has been described more as a vanilla-raisin taste. Why is that? Despite the recipes being very similar today, with both containing carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid and caffeine, there’s one ingredient Pepsi has over Coca-Cola: citric acid. This is the one ingredient that gives Pepsi its distinctive citrus taste.
So, in the end, it is based upon your own preferences, whether that be the citrusy Pepsi or the Vanilla-flavoured Coca-Cola. Which side of the Cola War are you on?
By Kory Glover