Whether you’re a fan of sodas or not, you know and have probably consumed one or another product from one of the largest manufacturing companies in the nation: PepsiCo. PepsiCo is a true American brand that has been around for over a century. It has given us some of our favorite food and beverage products over the years and continues to fuel our economy with their company’s innovation and commitment to charity. If you aren’t so familiar with what made PepsiCo the success that it is, here are 20 things you didn’t know about the company that might catch your interest.
1. Chips and soda
It was a natural marriage of two things: something salty and something refreshing. Sure, there are many things in life that go perfectly together. There are peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly, pork and beans, and many others. But there’s nothing like a crisp piece of chip and a nice swig of ice-cold soda. The brand PepsiCo, Inc. as we know it today is actually a product of the 1965 merger of two companies, Pepsi-Cola and famous snack brand Frito-Lay. The merger made sense, not only in the aspects of business but for consumers as well. Since then, Pepsi has had multiple other successful mergers and acquisitions. Many commercial food brands fall under the Pepsi umbrella. Some of its largest acquisitions that are still current include Tropicana, Quaker Oats, and Gatorade. Other brands that were previously owned by PepsiCo included Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, California Pizza Kitchen, and Wilson Sporting Goods.
2. American brand abroad
The collapse of the Soviet Union was something many of us were around to see. International business deals were rare between the socialist state and the US, but PepsiCo somehow managed to get a foot in the door. PepsiCo was the first large American company to enter the socialist market. PepsiCo began selling its consumer products back in 1974 in the USSR. However, the US wanted to expand their presence in the area even more and the Soviet Union wanted to make more profit. So the two states decided to trade goods to make the deal. In 1990, the USSR traded in more than $300 million worth of tankers and freighters, all ranging in size from 28,600 tons to 65,000 tons. This doubled the production network that PepsiCo already had established in the area, which made national distribution possible.
3. A bigger bottle
In America, we always say that bigger is better. That means bigger trucks, bigger TVs, bigger bathrooms, and bigger portions too. Food portioning is one of the major differences between eating here and in other countries. We like to serve big plates, and our consumers like to get more bang for their buck. In 1970, PepsiCo decided to go big or go home. For the first time ever, the company introduced the very first two-liter soft drink bottles that we still have available today. With the invention of the bottle and having to obtain design and manufacturing patents, the bigger bottles didn’t actually make it on the market shelves until 1985. Ever since then, our soda drinking habits had never been the same. Of course, PepsiCo didn’t just make the larger bottles to get more soda; they profited greatly from the innovative change, and again, their consumers were happier to pay for more.
4. Fruit juice fizzies
Does anyone remember Slice? It was a drink manufactured by PepsiCo starting from 1984 until sometime around 2000 or so. No one really remembers the brand fizzing out, and no one really knows the significance of the drink either. Slice was actually the very first major soft drink that incorporated some fruit juice in. Apparently, there was a huge untapped market in that industry, and sooner than later, other big name drink companies are jumping in at the opportunity. By 1987, Slice held approximately 3% of the soft drink market on its own. PepsiCo had a huge success reintroducing something new and different with their soft drinks by just adding 10% fruit juice. Until 1994, some of the flavors the company produced included apple, cherry (replaced by wild cherry in 1988), cherry-lime, fruit punch, grape, lemon-lime, mandarin orange, mango, passionfruit, peach, pineapple, pink lemonade, and strawberry. They even had a pepper-flavored soft drink called Dr. Slice.
5. Sports sponsors
PepsiCo is an all-American brand. The company has always supported the sports industry, which is also a smart business move on their part. America loves its sports, after all. There’s a good chance that you’ve been to at least one major sports league game at least once in your life. PepsiCo happens to be the official sponsor to a few of them. Since the early 80s, PepsiCo has had a partnership with the National Football League. That business relationship is now going on its 35th year, and it’s safe to say that the partnership is billions in dollars worth. PepsiCo also happens to be the official sponsor for Major League Baseball. This partnership has been going on for over 19 years, and it has kept PepsiCo busy with business over the years. In more recent times, PepsiCo was able to nab a partnership with the National Basketball Association as well. This 3rd partnership made PepsiCo the sponsor of all three major sports leagues, which makes sense also given that PepsiCo owns Gatorade.
There was a time when Starbucks hit the gas pedal in the market. New stores were opening left and right, and in some cities, you couldn’t get away from a Starbucks store. However in 1994, Starbucks and PepsiCo broke new grounds in the drink industry. Together, the two companies founded the North American Coffee Partnership, which sought to bring even more Starbucks around. Before that time, you couldn’t find ready-to-drink bottled coffee anywhere. Nowadays, you can buy a Starbucks Frappuccino bottled up on your grocery shelves or convenience stores. The partnership is considered to be one of the most successful ventures in the beverage industry. By 2015, the partnership owned an unprecedented 97% of the market share with over $1.5 billion in recent business sales.
PepsiCo bottled more than just soft drinks and coffee. If you’ve ever grabbed yourself a bottle of Aquafina water, you should know that you’re getting a PepsiCo product. Aquafina was first introduced in 1994 in Wichita, Kansas. Since then, the company has produced different variants of the drink, eventually adding different flavors into their bottle water. However, PepsiCo has gone through some fire over how and where the company sourced their water. Some people also claimed that there’s a misrepresentation on the label they use on their bottles, making people think that their water comes from mountain springs. After a while, Aquafina came to be known to come from a public water source, meaning it came from tap water. Regardless of that revelation, Aquafina still held about 13% of domestic bottled water sales, still a large portion for one brand to hold.
8. Mountain Dew
The first formula for Mountain Dew was invented in 1940 and revised in 1958. By 1961, the first Mountain Dew hit the shelves, and it was such a hit that PepsiCo decided to acquire the brand in 1964. They haven’t turned around since. The difference between other soft drink flavors and Mountain Dew is the fact that the Dew contains 54 mg of caffeine in every 12 US fl oz can. That’s not comparable to what you would get in a normal coffee cup, but it still gave drinkers a bit of a buzz. Of course, the company used this as a marketing plus. Since the brand came to be in the 40s up until the 80s, there was only one flavor of Mountain Dew available to everyone. In 1988, a diet option was offered with Diet Mountain Dew and a cherry flavor was introduced in 2001. More flavors and variations have been introduced since then, and as of 2012, Mountain Dew topped the sales in the 20-ounce category in gas and convenience stores.
9. Super Bowl
Every year, people have looked forward to the commercials airing during the Super Bowl. It has become part of the football tradition in many ways. PepsiCo has always taken advantage of that advertising opportunity to boost sales, and the company has been one of the biggest players in the commercial world of the Super Bowl since 1987. Each year, PepsiCo has gotten more and more creative with their commercials, and sometimes they even release more than one during the football segment. By 2011, PepsiCo has advertised over 125 different products during the Super Bowl. That means we’ve all seen over 125 of PepsiCo products since that time. It certainly begs to ask the question, “How many products does PepsiCo actually have?”
10. Brad’s drink
Caleb Davis Bradham is an important name in the history of PepsiCo. In New Bern, North Carolina back in the 1880s, Bradham was a pharmacist and industrialist that invented a new recipe for a soft drink. He started selling this drink in 1893 using the soda fountain he had in his store, and he called it “Brad’s Drink.” His formula at the time consisted of a mixture of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, nutmeg, kola nuts, and a few others. By 1898, he had coined the name Pepsi-Cola because he believed that his drink prevented indigestion, or dyspepsia. Bradham created the Pepsi-Cola Company in 1902 and had his patent registered by 1903. He eventually incorporated in 1919, the first ever in the state of Delaware in 1919. History has taken over since, and Pepsi has never stopped growing even for just a second.
11. World War I
Sugar has always been an important ingredient in soft drinks, including PepsiCo’s sodas. It’s one of the reasons why we love the drink, and it’s also one of the main reasons that we’ve realized how detrimental it is for our health. Soft drinks contain large traces of sugar. During the First World War, the price of sugar significantly increased. Bradham saw an opportunity there and decided to take a risk. He bought tons of sugar with the thought that the price will just continue to go higher and higher. His goal was to resell for profit. It turned out to be a bad move for Bradham, one that would cost him his company. The price of sugar didn’t go any higher, and he ended having to declare bankruptcy in 1923. Eight years later, PepsiCo found a new owner in the Loft Candy Company.
12. Profits with the same price
During the Great Depression, a lot of businesses had to buckle down due to the financial crisis. Many companies were at risk for closing down because nobody could afford to buy anything. During this time, the price for a 6-ounce bottle of soft drink was a nickel. It may not sound like much, but it was a bit much then when people couldn’t afford much to begin with. However, PepsiCo had a different strategy in mind. Instead of trying to sell for less so more people can afford their product, they increased the size of their bottles from 6-ounce to 12-ounce and sold them for the same price: a nickel. The results? PepsiCo’s profits doubled. Why pay for someone else’s soft drink when you can get double with Pepsi for the same price? It certainly gave people the notion that they can still have more even if they were struggling.
13. Sofia Vergara
Modern Family’s superstar was not always as big as she is now. Sofia Vergara is the actress that we all admire. She’s beautiful; she’s funny; and she’s got this something about her that makes us all look twice. PepsiCo knew that off the bat and gave the star her first break when they let her act in a Pepsi commercial when she was only 17 years old. The 30-second ad ran only in South America. It featured the young actress in a bikini, walking across the hot beach sand to get to a Pepsi cart close by. The ad was an instant hit, and it propelled Vergara’s career. That was in 1990. Now 28 years later, Vergara still has an active partnership with the company, as PepsiCo approached her again in 2011 to do an ad for Diet Pepsi. She again appeared on a few of other Pepsi commercials since then.
14. Pepsi mascot
When you think of Pepsi, you probably can’t think of any mascots associated with it, and you shouldn’t be able to because there aren’t any—at least not in the US. In the 90s, a Canadian artist Travis Charest created a character for Pepsi Japan. Pepsi Japan was looking for a character to be put into their commercials, and so Pepsiman was born. Pepsiman was a faceless superhero, someone who brought Pepsi to anyone in need. And what was a superhero without his female counterpart? Pepsiwoman came about not too long after to promote Diet Pepsi Twist. Pepsiman had enough of a following to warrant a videogame made out of his character. In this 1999 videogame, Pepsiman had to be guided through various obstacles so he could do what he did best, what his sole purpose was: to bring Pepsi to fans everywhere. Whatever happened to Pepsiman, no one can be sure. But we haven’t heard from him since the 90s.
15. Japanese flavors
We all know how creative the Japanese are, especially after the whole Pepsiman idea. We also all know that the Japanese come up with the strangest flavors and variations on different types of food and drinks that are American-based. So as far as Pepsi flavors were concerned, Japan went all out. If you ever find yourself across the pacific in the land where sushi comes from, you might want to try out some of these outrageous flavors to see if you can handle them. There’s azuki bean and strawberry milk. There’s also shiso, an herb also known as the beefsteak plant; it has a minty flavor. There are also a variety of fruit flavors, cucumber, and salty watermelon; these are not quite as far-fetched. But imagine drinking a soda that’s flavored with baobab tree. We’re not even sure what baobab tastes like, but it’s something that’s definitely interesting.
16. The writing’s in the sky
We’re not sure what the history of skywriting is, but PepsiCo was not the first people to ever do it. However, they definitely were one of the first companies to ever take advantage of the advertising potential skywriting had. In 1932, PepsiCo hire a pilot to write “Pepsi” over many cities in the United States. Pilot Andy Stinis did just that; he flew over various cities and wrote “Pepsi” in the air using his aircraft. At the same time, PepsiCo released advertising in the papers to let readers know that the PepsiCo Skypilot was coming into town; it reminded readers to look up once in a while. By 1940, there were at least 14 skywriters working for the company, and they had written just about 2,225 messages in the sky all over North, South, and Central America.
17. 500 patents
For a company that’s continuously growing and expanding, it comes to no surprise that they’re always trying to innovate and invent. As a matter of fact, PepsiCo has about 500 patents to date, one of which includes a patent for a tennis racket. In the mid-1970s, Douglas E. Dempsey and Gerald F. Herndon invented a tennis racket that substituted wood for nylon. It had a specific design that consisted of two interlocking channel-shaped pieces. The holes aligned for the strings. The nylon provided a material that can be reinforced with stronger fibers, and it made for a more durable tennis racket. PepsiCo jumped on the patent right away, but we’re not sure what resulted to that invention.
18. 11 logos
Apart from having had about 500 patents in its history, PepsiCo has had quite a few logos as well. It isn’t confusing to the consumer only because PepsiCo has become a household name for a while now. The famous globe symbol that we’ve all come to know is Pepsi’s logo didn’t really come about until the 1950s. That’s actually representative of a bottle cap that has red, white, and blue swirls—strictly to represent an all-American brand. In the early 1960s, the word “cola” from the script was removed completely, and a bold text replaced it instead. Ever since then, whatever variation was made onto the logo, it still somehow revolves around the globe symbol. The most recent logo update was designed by the Arnell Group, and it cost PepsiCo $1 million. PepsiCo made sure the Arnell Group worked for it though, as they submitted a 27-page design brief. After all, there’s more to logos than what meets the eye.
19. Buggy to truck
PepsiCo loves jumping to innovation and advances in technology. They have been even back then when advances weren’t in leaps as they are now but rather in steps. Back in the day, transporting products involved the use of horse-drawn carriages over long travels. It was strenuous and time-consuming hard work. As soon as it had the chance, PepsiCo got away from this process. They were one of the first companies in the US to stop using carriages and opt for motorized transportation instead. It might have cost more money in transportation expenses, but it made production and distribution faster, which only meant they had more products to sell and could sell them faster. Since then, many companies have followed suit and no one has looked back since.
20. The Pepsi challenge
There’s always the question of which is better, and in the world of soft drinks, there are only two big names that can monopolize the competition: PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Company. Everyone has his or her own preferences. Some people swear that one is better than the other; while others claim that there isn’t much of a difference between products from the two companies. In 1975, an informal challenge was introduced to finally address the question of which was better. PepsiCo dubbed it the Pepsi Challenge, a marketing campaign to promote the superiority of Pepsi products over Coca-Cola’s. The verdict? 50% of the participants preferred the sweet, lemon-flavored taste of Pepsi to Coca-Cola. That might be the best answer we could ever get, but we know that the debate will never rest.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson