What Is the Origin of the Brand Name "Pepsi"?

origin-brand-name-pepsi Credit: Håkan Dahlström/CC-BY-2.0

The brand name for Coca-Cola's rival soft-drink, Pepsi, is based on one of the original ingredients, pepsin, a digestive aid. Pepsin is no longer an ingredient in the soft drink, just as cola leaves are no longer an ingredient in Coca-Cola. Like many soft drinks invented in the late 19th century, Pepsi was first marketed as a tonic.

Pepsi was called "Brad's Drink" when it first appeared in 1893 at the drugstore where it was originally sold in New Bern, North Carolina. The owner of the drugstore, Caleb Bradham, sought to create a new and appealing fountain drink that would boost energy and aid in digestion. It was later named Pepsi-Cola as a reflection of the kola nuts that were a primary ingredient along with the digestive enzyme pepsin. Vanilla and sugar were also included in the original recipe.

Bradham moved the bottling of his soft drink out of his drug store and into a rented warehouse. Marketed in 6-ounce bottles, 19,848 gallons of the drink were sold by the following year. By 1931, during the Great Depression, the Pepsi-Cola Company was bankrupted. Part of the cause was its speculating on the price of sugar in the aftermath of World War I. The company's assets were eventually purchased by the candy company, Loft Inc. The soft drink and its trademark are currently owned by PepsiCo of Purchase, New York.