Everything You Ever Need to Know About Pepsi

There are two pillars in the cola world: Coca-Cola and Pepsi (don’t tell RC Cola I said this). It’s always interesting to learn how iconic brands like these achieve their status in the food and beverage world. So today, let’s take a look at everything you ever need to know about Pepsi.

What is Pepsi?

Pepsi is one of the many varieties of cola-flavored sodas on the market. The “cola” refers to the kola nut, which was the source of the drink’s caffeine way back when it was invented. I’ve never tasted a kola nut, so I don’t know if the flavor of the soda aligns with its namesake. 

The modern cola flavor is an amalgamation of cinnamon, vanilla, and either orange, lime, or lemon citrus oils. Many of these ingredients are artificially created. Pepsi’s ingredients are: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sugar, phosphoric acid, caffeine, citric acid, and natural flavors. They are open with their formula, unlike their sneaky Coca-Cola competitor.

Who invented Pepsi and when was Pepsi invented?

In 1983, a gentleman named Caleb Bradham created Pepsi to sell in his New Bern, North Carolina drugstore. He initially called it “Brad’s Drink,” which really doesn’t explain what it is.

Bradham changed the name to Pepsi-Cola in 1898. The cola part makes sense, but what about the Pepsi part? Way back when sodas were being invented, they were often sold under the auspices of providing some health benefit. For example, Coca-Cola was marketed as a cure for, among other things, morphine addiction. The Pepsi name is a reference to its purported ability to cure dyspepsia aka indigestion. 

Pepsi-Cola rose in popularity throughout the 20th century and in 1961, it changed its name to simply Pepsi. Since then, the brand has experienced huge growth and there has been a proliferation of Pepsi varieties including the infamous Crystal Pepsi.

How much caffeine is in Pepsi?

A 12 oz can of Pepsi contains 38 mg of caffeine. This is on par with its cola competitors; Coca-Cola has 34 mg per 12 oz can. For reference, a cup of black tea has 47 mg and a cup of coffee has 95 mg. Pepsi does have a caffeine-free version, though, which has been available since 1982.

What were the Cola Wars?

If you ever go to a movie theater or a fast food restaurant, you’ll notice that they either sell Coca-Cola products or Pepsi products. The lines are strictly drawn thanks to the long-standing Cola Wars. 

In the 1980s, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi were vying for cola supremacy and started aggressive, targeted marketing campaigns to corner the market. Marketing tactics like The Pepsi Challenge put the drinks side by side, showing customers preferring one over the other. 

Even though they don’t acknowledge it much in their advertising now, the rivalry between the brands remains to this day.

Did the Pepsi kid get the jet?

One of Pepsi’s many advertising strategies nearly bit them in the butt. In the 1990s, Pepsi started their Pepsi Stuff campaign in which fans could accumulate Pepsi Points and trade them in for swag like a T-shirt or leather jacket. This 1996 commercial ends with a teen landing a Harrier jet in front of his school that he “won” by accumulating 7,000,000 Pepsi Points.

Well, an enterprising college student named John Leonard wanted to test the contest. Using a loophole he found while reading the terms and conditions, he managed to source $700,000—the cash equivalent of the 7,000,000 points—through the help of investors, including a millionaire mountaineering friend named Todd Hoffman. He sent it to PepsiCo, demanding his jet. Pepsi refused, so Leonard sued.

Sadly, the court ruled in favor of PepsiCo, so there was never a 21-year old with his own war weapon. Pepsi continued to air the commercial, but changed the point total to 700,000,000 with a “just kidding” disclaimer. If you want to know more, there was a Netflix original docu-series on the subject called Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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