Is Dr Pepper Owned by Coke or Pepsi?

Dr 4668972 1280 Credit: [RJA1988/Pixabay]

Dr Pepper is a popular soft drink that claims to be the oldest major soft drink in America. Many people wonder if Dr Pepper is a Coca-Cola or Pepsi product. The truth is that Dr Pepper is owned by neither Coke nor Pepsi, even though some Coke and Pepsi plants bottle it. Here’s more information about the colorful story of Dr Pepper.

Dr Pepper’s Parent Company

Dr Pepper is one part of a larger conglomerate, called Keurig Dr Pepper. It’s owned by American company Mondelez and Austrian company JAB Holdings. The larger corporate entity also owns many other brands, such as Keurig, Cinnabon, Canada Dry, Snapple and Kahlua. 


Keurig Dr Pepper is the seventh largest beverage company in the United States. It employs over 25,000 people at more than 100 distribution centers across the country.


It’s Complicated


Dr Pepper actually has a complex relationship with soft drink giants Coke and Pepsi. Coca-Cola tried to purchase Dr Pepper when it filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Antitrust issues prevented that merger from taking place. However, Coke does own some of the rights to distribute Dr Pepper in parts of the world like South Korea and Europe. 


Pepsi also owns some international distribution rights to Dr Pepper. However, these rights are in areas where Dr Pepper doesn’t have much market share. Dr Pepper also uses some Pepsi and Coca-Cola bottling facilities to bottle its products. 


The History of Dr Pepper


Dr Pepper goes back to 1885. Charles Alderton, a pharmacist at a drug store in Waco, Texas, mixed soda fountain flavors until he found a blend that customers loved. He wanted to call the mix a “Waco.” His boss, Wade Morrison, came up with a punchier name: Dr Pepper.


Dr Pepper made its debut on a larger stage at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. It became a hit. Dr Pepper soon expanded throughout the country and became a national brand by the 1960s. 


The company dropped the period from “Dr” in the 1950s. Dietetic Dr Pepper came on the scene in 1962, and the company later renamed it Sugar Free Dr Pepper, and even later Diet Dr Pepper. Other flavors followed in later years, including Dr Pepper Cherry and the short-lived Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr Pepper.


Was Dr Pepper a Real Person?


Plenty of consumers have wondered whether Dr Pepper was a real person or just a legend. The

Dr Pepper corporation claims that Wade Morrison named it after Charles Pepper, whose daughter Morrison fell in love with. 

Is the Recipe a Secret?


Dr Pepper maintains that its formula is a secret. However, a recipe surfaced in 2009 when a collector in Oklahoma bought a ledger book at an antique store. Inside the book, the collector discovered a recipe for “D Peppers Pepsin Bitters.” Dr Pepper claimed the recipe was for a digestive aid and not for its famous drink. But that didn’t stop the collector from trying to sell the ledger at auction. The book didn’t meet the reserve that the collector set, and it didn’t sell.


Is Dr Pepper a Cola?


For decades, Coca-Cola and Pepsi tried to prevent Dr Pepper from gaining too great a foothold in the beverage market. In 1963, a federal court came to the rescue, ruling that Dr Pepper’s flavor was distinct enough to not be called a cola. The ruling helped Dr Pepper take off nationally.


What didn’t take off, however, were Dr Pepper’s efforts to market the beverage as something consumers would enjoy hot. In the 1960s, Dr Pepper tried to market a recipe that included heated Dr Pepper with lemon juice as a holiday treat. It didn’t work, and we consider Dr Pepper a cold drink to this day.