Pepsi: Born where?

“Well, you know Pepsi started right there in Chinquapin.” That is something we would hear every time we passed through Chinquapin. We would respectively respond by saying that’s cool. Of course, under our breath, it sounded like yeah right or pretty sure it wasn’t. Don’t tell my mom what I am about to say because sometimes you have to admit when your parent is right because in this case, she was right. Well, she was partially right. 

I’ll just say that unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last hundred years, you have heard of Pepsi. Whether you like Pepsi, aren’t allowed to drink it for health or religious reasons, or if your choice of soda is one of the other 194 brands of soft drinks that are marketed throughout the world with 407 of the 993 varieties of those soft drink brands being sold by the big three; you at least have heard of it. The big three companies are Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. While it has been many years since the big three have just sold Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr. Peppers; Coca-Cola is statistically the best selling soda in the United States. While Coca-Cola may be the most popular soda sold; three of the most popular sodas sold in America are Pepsi brand products. And Coca-Cola and its pop rival Pepsi may generate over 100 BILLION dollars worth of sales each year; Pepsi and its collective brands made an estimated $20 million more than Coca-Cola. As of 2012, Pepsi (now known as PepsiCo) had a total of 22 brands that each generates over $1 billion a year in sales. Despite all of that; Pepsi and Coke each sell a variety of drinks including iced coffee, juice, water, sports drinks, a variety of sodas, and a plethora of other items. Pepsi’s variety of products is distributed in more than 200 countries. So where does a global product whose parent company owns and distributes everything from Pepsi to Mountain Dew to Gatorade to Tropicana Orange Juice start? What humble beginnings could a company that spends an average of $4 billion in advertising a year have?

Well to start, I’ll give my mom credit for having part of the story correct. Pepsi itself didn’t begin in Chinquapin, NC; but its creator did. His life began there that is. Caleb Davis Bradham was born to George Washington Bradham and his wife Julia McCann Bradham on May 27, 1867, in Chinquapin, NC. Caleb grew up and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before moving on to the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He dropped out before graduating due to his father’s business going bankrupt. He, after coming back to North Carolina, worked as a public school teacher. After a while, he opened the Bradham Drug Company in downtown New Bern. In his drug store, like many other drug stores at the time, he had a soda fountain. In his store at the corner of Middle and Pollock Street, he invented the original recipe. The original blend consisted of kola nut extract, vanilla, and other rare oils. It was originally marketed as Brad’s Drink but on August 28, 1898, it was renamed after the pepsin enzyme which was a popular drink which aided digestion. Even though his drink didn’t contain any of the pepsin enzymes, he believed that his drink aided in digestion enough to warrant it. He chose the cola part of its name due to the inclusion of the kola nut extract in the ingredients. 

He incorporated the Pepsi-Cola Company on December 24, 1902, and trademarked the Pepsi-Cola on June 16, 1903. By 1905, Bradham had expanded from selling Pepsi-Cola as a syrup to be used in soda fountains to six-ounce bottles that were bottled in two separate North Carolina based bottling companies. Bradham continued to run his drug store, was president of the Pepsi-Cola Company, served as president of the People’s Bank of New Bern, was chairman of the Craven County Board of Commissioners, served as an officer in the naval reserve where he was named a lieutenant before being promoted to commander and then captain and ultimately retired as a rear admiral in the North Carolina Naval Militia before being appointed to the General Naval Militia Board. Shew. That was a mouthful! Much like the mouthful of sugar that would ultimately bankrupt Pepsi-Cola in 1923. After WWI, sugar prices shot up to 28 cents per pound but sadly for Bradham, prices nosedived soon after he purchased an extremely large amount of sugar at the elevated price. Causing the company to be upside down with its profits.

The assets were sold for the minuscule amount of $35,000 by the Craven Holden Group before being purchased by a Wall Street broker in association with Charles Guth. Guth was the president of Loft, Incorporated which was a candy manufacturer based in Long Island, New York. his labs and chemists reformulated the recipe and he used his position as president of the company to replace Coca-Cola in the 115 stores that he ran. By the mid-60s, Pepsi had expanded the line with the creation of Diet Pepsi and my son’s personal favorite Mountain Dew. Pepsi merged with Frito-Lay in 1965 to become PepsiCo and continued to grow and expand its company. PepsiCo is now the second-largest food and beverage business in the world and owns everything from Cap’n Crunch cereal to Mountain Dew to Gatorade to Doritos to Rice-a-Roni to Rold Gold Pretzels to Cracker Jacks. When you imagine that PepsiCo’s value in 2018 was over $155.9 billion, you can see that the $35,000 investment of a creation founded by a man from the tiny town of Chinquapin, NC is well worth its weight in gold. And hopefully worth its weight in sugar.


Featured Image – Pepsi Bottle accredited to Håkan Dahlström from Malmö, Sweden – Pepsi bottle, CC BY 2.0,

Pepsi 2016 logo accredited to PEPSICO – PEPSICO, Public Domain,

Plaque marking the spot where Pepsi was first created by RadioFan at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Caleb Bradham, c 1900 accredited to Unknown – The Pepsi Store, New Bern, North Carolina. Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by TarHippo., Public Domain,

The drugstore of Caleb Bradham exhibition in Historical Museum in New Bern accredited to Sandstein – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Pepsi sign in New Bern, NC by Andrew Gnias – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The new model of a Pepsi machine by Nenyedi at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Liftarn using CommonsHelper., Public Domain,

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