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Soft Drink History: Pepsi and Coke

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Soft drinks are the substance of our lives. Of this there can be no doubt. I for one have been drinking Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola since I was a very young man indeed. Did you ever take time to wonder about the history of these two great and life-enriching drinks?

It all goes back to one pharmacist, Caleb Bradham, who in the waning days of the 19th century was occupied with preparing formula after formula involving carbonated water, sugar, and as luck would have it, vanilla and cola nuts at his drugstore soda fountain. His final concoction, which Caleb called "Brad's Drink," soon grew in popularity; he called it "Pep Cola." PepsiAs it happens the Greeks used the word "pepsi" to describe certain functions of the stomach. Since the carbonated water in Brad's Drink promoted healthy digestion, the product finally became "Pepsi Cola." Brad sold Pepsi for years, and in 1929 a celebrity auto racer, Barney Oldfield, endorsed it in newspaper ads as "A bully drink…refreshing, invigorating, a fine bracer before a race."

Advertising and Pepsi went hand in hand. Upon the introduction in 1934 of a 12-ounce bottle, which sold for a dime, the drink's popularity sky-rocketed. Then the price was slashed to a nickel and sales went "through the roof." Radio listeners, in those golden early days of radio broadcasting, were treated to a jingle: "Pepsi cola hits the spot – Twelve full ounces, that's a lot – Twice as much for a nickel, too – Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you."  Since that time, jingles have come and gone. In 1958 it was, "Be Sociable, Have a Pepsi." On then to 1961 – "Now It's Pepsi for Those Who Think Young." And in 1963, "Come Alive, You're in the Pepsi Generation."

But the reader may profess a preference for Coca-Cola. For that, we go back to 1815. At that early date, John Pemberton, of Covington, Georgia, had developed a Cokawine – a wine made not of grapes, but of coka leaf extract. To this very day Coca Cola contains coka leaf extract processed at a plant in Maywood, New Jersey, the only U.S. plant with government permission to import and process the plant. (In 1903 the energizing extract was replaced with a milder, drug-free version.) Coca-Cola, a carbonated, non-alcoholic version of French Wine Cola, was sold, for five cents a glass, as a patent medicine, to cure a wide range of ills. The current exact formula of Coca-Cola is a famous trade secret. The original copy of the formula for Coca-Cola is stored in an Atlanta, Georgia bank vault. Only two top executives of the Coca-Cola CokeCompany have access to the vault, and to the secret formula.

Robert Winship Woodruff was an entrepreneur who contributed greatly to the success of the Coca-Cola Company. In 1941, the United States having entered World War ll, Woodruff ordered that the company provide "every man in uniform" with "a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5 cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the Company."

Want to read more? Follow this link to many great Coca-Cola stories!

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About John Lake

John Lake had a long and successful career in legitimate and musical theater. He moved up into work behind the camera at top motion pictures. He has done a smattering of radio, and television John joined the Blogcritics field of writers owing to a passion for the liberal press, himself speaking out about the political front, and liberal issues. Now the retired Mr. Lake has entered the field of motion picture, television, and video game (now a daily gamer!) critique. His writing is always innovative and immensely readable!