Coke Vs. Pepsi: The History Of The Age-Old Cola Rivalry

The age-old choice between Coca-Cola or Pepsi has long been a divisive topic. This rivalry seems only natural. Both colas seem to occupy the same role accompanying a burger or consumed as a midday pick-me-up. Coke and Pepsi have a deep caramel flavor, along with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus. Insider shares the original recipe for both sodas by their inventors: Coca-Cola contained sugar, caffeine, lime juice, vanilla, citric acid, and caramel for color, while Pepsi had the same ingredients minus the citric acid. Some believe there are only subtle differences between the two soft drinks, while others swear that one tastes significantly better than the other. Either way, the rivalry between these sodas has been around as early as we can remember.

Interestingly enough, it wasn't directly due to similarities in flavor that these sodas waged war on one another, although this surely contributed to the feud. When Coca-Cola was founded in 1886 and Pepsi in 1898 (Per the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources), they weren't direct competitors. In fact, Insider notes that the animosity between them emerged in 1975; almost an entire century after both soft drinks were invented.

Pepsi starts war

Coca-Cola always seemed to be winning the race between the cola drinks. Since its invention, Coca-Cola earned huge endorsements, launched successful ad campaigns, and essentially wrote itself into the American cultural lexicon. Pepsi, on the other hand, was trailing behind and even went bankrupt at one point in the 1930s (via Insider). Eventually, Pepsi decided to rebrand in an attempt to catch up to its rival. Northeast News reports that, in 1975, Pepsi launched a targeted attack on Coca-Cola in its Pepsi Challenge advertisement campaign.

The campaign would show consumers preferred the supposedly sweeter Pepsi over Coca-Cola in a blind taste test. The Pepsi Challenge was such a culture shock to Coca-Cola fans that it became a national challenge held in shopping malls (via Northeast News). Pepsi successfully increased its publicity by having those who preferred Pepsi wear a badge to show their allegiance to the brand. As for the taste of the soda, even Malcolm Gladwell confirms in Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking that Pepsi's flavor is sweeter and more citrus-forward than Coca-Cola, which has more concentrated vanilla flavoring.

Coke wins the cola War

Of course, the success of Pepsi's campaign only led Coca-Cola to retaliate. The company launched Diet Coke in 1982, which became the most popular diet soda drink on the planet, according to CBS News. Three years later, Coca-Cola released "New Coke," a sweeter take on the original formula, so as to have a drink more comparable to the flavor of Pepsi. Unfortunately, this new drink did not bode well with Coca-Cola loyalists who demanded the original recipe. But to the company's benefit, this botched "New Coke" actually stirred up more excitement for the original Coca-Cola, which became more popular than ever upon its return.

Once Diet Coke kicked Pepsi out of its second place in popular sodas in 2010, consumers assumed that Pepsi lost the war, as shown in The Wall Street Journal. But while Pepsi may have lost its edge in the cola war, CNN Money shows that this loss was actually the best thing to happen to the company. Indeed, PepsiCo began to thrive with its food brands, such as Frito-Lay, which now dominates the snack market. Comfortable in its third place in the soda competition, PepsiCo boasts of owning brands that monopolize our grocery shelves today, per Yahoo!.