Pepsi vs. Coke: Which is better?


Fact Box

  • According to Britannica, the first soft drink originated in 17th-century France as a 'mixture of water and lemon juice sweetened with honey' as a means to 'imitate the popular and naturally effervescent waters of famous springs.' 
  • Data reveals that one out of every four beverages consumed in America is a soft drink. 
  • PepsiCo has experimented with various flavors in its global marketplace, including Japan's specialties: 'azuki bean, strawberry milk, shiso, cucumber, baobab tree fruit, yogurt, and salty watermelon.'
  • Coke is sold in every country in the world except for Cuba and North Korea. 
  • In 2006, Indra Nooyi became the first female CEO of PepsiCo and the first woman and immigrant to head up a Fortune 50 company. Under her leadership, the company 'nearly doubled sales and introduced healthier products and environmentally friendly practices.'  
  • In the 1980s, Coke unveiled an ad campaign called 'Coke in the Morning' to brand the soda as a breakfast drink to replace morning coffee.

Curtice (Pepsi)

The debate over which soft drink is better, Coke or Pepsi, has raged on for well over a century, but came to a head with the so-called 'Pepsi Challenge' from 1975, which revealed that ''more people' prefer Pepsi in blind taste tests.' Invented in 1893 by Caleb Bradham, a pharmacist from New Bern, North Carolina, Pepsi has won consumers over for decades. 

When talking about cola products, most people agree that Pepsi is slightly sweeter than Coke—due, in part, to its sodium content being lower than Coke. And, as Malcolm Gladwell noted in his book 'Blink,' Pepsi has a 'citrusy flavor burst,' which is different from Coke's 'more raisiny-vanilla taste,' likely a result of Pepsi's use of citric acid. Gladwell describes Pepsi as 'a drink built to shine in a sip test.'

However, even with its winning taste, Coke still outsells Pepsi, a phenomenon industry experts have dubbed the 'Pepsi Paradox,' in which 'Pepsi consistently beats Coke in blind taste tests, although people seem to prefer Coke when they know what they are drinking.' And it all comes down to marketing. A 2007 study revealed that 'warm and fuzzy' Coke ads triggered a positive associative response in consumers that enticed them to choose Coke over Pepsi. 

In the end, however, Coke's marketing can't eclipse PepsiCo's long-standing ingenuity. From creating one of the first ad jingles to focusing on bottled water and snacks, Pepsico's diversification leads the way that Coke eventually follows.

Everyone knows Coke's commercials, but when it comes down to it, Pepsi is a better product from a better company.  

Tyler (Coke)

Dubbed 'the world's most valuable soft drink brand,' Coke is king in the cola wars. Its authenticity, commitment to its ingredients, and unique place in American pop culture demonstrate why it is second to none in the industry.

Coke is the original cola drink, formulated by Dr. John Pemberton in 1889 at his pharmacy's soda fountain in Atlanta, Georgia. It is no coincidence that within five years of Coca-Cola being introduced to the general public, a pharmacist in North Carolina released an eerily similar drink of the same consistency and color--originally called 'Brad's Drink,' but remarketed as 'Pepsi-Cola' after Coke's success. Although Pepsi tried to replicate what Coca-Cola did, to this day, Coke still bears a much larger following, with 71% of people preferring the taste of Coke over Pepsi. 

Additionally, Coke outsells Pepsi in every metric with a $33.2 billion brand value in 2021, nearly double that of Pepsi. Coke also reigns supreme around the world simply off of name and brand recognition. In regions like the American South, people even refer to Pepsi as 'a coke.'

Coke also contains less sugar, calories, and carbohydrates than Pepsi while still maintaining a robust, pleasing taste.

Coca-Cola's winning formula has historically been under scrutiny--some even claiming it had at one time contained cocaine (which the company denies)--but the over-hundred-year-old recipe is secured 'inside an imposing steel vault that's bathed in red security lights.'

Finally, Coke's contributions to pop culture are more significant than Pepsi's, as well. Synonymous with other aspects of Americana, like baseball and hotdogs, Coke's long history of successful advertising is known worldwide, perhaps because, as one expert relates, the ads have a way of 'getting stuck' in peoples' minds.

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