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Pharmacist's fizzy elixir makes pounds 1.3bn a year.

From its humble beginning 100 years ago, a fizzy concoction created by a pharmacist as an elixir for aiding digestion has been the choice of generations.

Having been passed from the Pepsi Generation to the New Generation and now to Generation Next, Pepsi-Cola is the second-most popular soft drink in the United States and drank throughout the world.

The Pepsi story began in the late 1890s at a drug store fountain in New Bern, North Carolina, when Caleb Bradham began offering a new beverage touted as a digestive aid and energy booster.

"He made a lot of different remedies for a lot of different ailments," said Mr Bob Stoddard of Upland, California, who recently finished the book Pepsi, 100 Years.

Brad's drink, as it was known, consisted of one ounce of syrup and five ounces of soda water mixed with a spoon. It became an immediate hit.

In 1898, Bradham changed the name to Pepsi-Cola. In 1902, he launched the Pepsi-Cola Co from the back room of his pharmacy, and he was awarded the Pepsi-Cola trademark in 1903.

Bradham had visions of greater things. At first, he mixed, packaged and sold his syrup, then started bottling his drink in 1905. He then began awarding franchises - the first two in Charlotte and Durham - and by 1910 the business had expanded to 24 states and 280 bottlers.

Shortly after the First World War, Bradham fell victim to volatile sugar prices.

He stockpiled sugar at 22 cents a pound, then watched it plummet to 3 cents a pound.

The loss, combined with poor marketing, forced him into bankruptcy. He sold the trademark and business in 1923 for pounds 21,000.

The company changed hands four times by 1928 and went bankrupt again in 1931. The trademark was resurrected, however, by Charles Guth, owner of Loft Inc, a chain of candy stores and soda fountains along the East Coast, who tinkered with the soft-drink recipe, its only alteration.

With the nation in the throes of the Depression, Guth in 1934 began selling 12-ounce bottles of Pepsi for a nickel, the same price as the typical six-ounce bottles of other soft drinks.

"It was kind of belly wash for poor folks," said Mr John Shelton Reed, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Consumers responded enthusiastically to an advertising tune touting "Twice as much for a nickel," and Pepsi became so popular that Loft Inc merged with the subsidiary to become the Pepsi-Cola Co.

In the late 1950s, the company stopped advertising Pepsi as a bargain brand and began focusing its advertising on young people. Over the years, it has been touted by such celebrities as Joan Crawford, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Michael J Fox and cosmonauts on the Russian space station Mir.

Pepsi's marketing campaigns were so successful that Coca-Cola, which has 44 per cent of the US market to Pepsi's 31 per cent, nonetheless decided to offer a sweeter New Coke. Coke drinkers stayed true to the original, first made in 1886 at a pharmacy in Atlanta, and the New Coke flopped.

Part of Pepsi's modern success has been selling the image of youth.

The company is trying to maintain its hip image with a new packaging scheme that features a stylized, 3-D globe logo against a blue ice backdrop.

The company, which in 1965 changed its name to PepsiCo, has expanded into other beverages, such as Lipton's Ice Tea, as well as snack foods like Doritos.

The company's venture into the restaurant business with Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) ended last year when they were spun off.

Goldman says PepsiCo is in good shape. The company's profits for 1997 were pounds 1.31billion on revenues of pounds 12.8billion, and Pepsi is now bottled in nearly 150 countries.

Meanwhile, at the town where it all began on the south-eastern coast of North Carolina, residents of New Bern plan to honour their famous son with a parade, flotilla, and fireworks display on April 3-5.

An exhibition of Pepsi memorabilia will be on display and a Pepsi store and museum are being built on the site of Bradham's corner drug store.

Mr Stoddard, aged 47, is bringing his entire collection of some 3,000 Pepsi items to add to an exhibit that will go on display March 12.

He now makes a living selling Pepsi collectables and serving as a consultant to Pepsi. And, he says, he has always been loyal to the brand.

"I switched over to Diet Pepsi, but I still drink at least a six-pack a day," he said. "I love it.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 7, 1998
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