Coke or Pepsi? History of a Global Sugar Addiction

The Cola Wars Documentary

History Channel 1990

Film Review

Coca Cola was first produced in 1886, when cocaine, morphine and alcohol were common patent medicine ingredients. The immediate predecessor to Coke was a concoction produced by Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton called French Wine Cola, containing cocaine, alcohol and caffeine. When Atlanta outlawed alcohol sales In 1885, Pemberton left the patent medicine business to produce his renamed Coca Cola for the increasingly popular soda fountain trade. His first version combined cocaine with kola nut extract (a stimulant).

Pemberton, a cocaine addict, sold the company to another pharmacist Asa Kandler shortly before his death in 1889. Kandler added more sugar to disguise the medicinal taste and citric acid to disguise the excessive sweetness. In 1916, he began bottling it as well as dispensing syrup to soda foundations.

Pepsi Cola, Coke’s arch rival, was also invented by a pharmacist in Newburn, North Carolina in 1898. It’s name was deliberately deceptive, as it never contained either pepsin (an aid to digestion) nor kola nut extract.

During World War II, Coca Cola gained the upper hand by making an agreement with the US government to be the exclusive soft drink provider to US troops stationed in Europe and the Pacific. The agreement also exempted from the sugar ration, which virtually crippled Pepsi Cola.

In 1985, after Coke made the disastrous misstep of secretly changing the coke formula to make it taste more like Pepsi, the company faced a massive backlash from Coke drinkers, briefly making Pepsi the number one soft drink in the world. Three months later they re-introduced the original formula as “Classic Coke.”


6 thoughts on “Coke or Pepsi? History of a Global Sugar Addiction

  1. Pingback: Coke or Pepsi? History of a Global Sugar Addiction

  2. I’d heard decades ago that coca cola contained cocaine and I was aghast, although I probably should not have been. I am so very glad that I gave up drinking sodas, again, decades ago and I haven’t missed that too sugary taste. I never did go in for artificially sweetened drinks. If I’m not drinking ‘bottled’ water, I am drinking a concoction I like that includes non-GMO cranberry juice and sparkling water. When I lived in Minnesota, I used to mix Old Orchard Cranberry juice with Mendota naturally lime flavored sparkling water and oh how refreshing that was. Where I live now, I don’t have either of those available and so I make do with what’s available.

    I had a terrible time at first, attempting to get rid of a sweet tooth that began in my youth because we were just bombarded with sweets. How I am not diabetic is a complete mystery to me. But I’m not and I’m glad because when I was growing up, all I heard was, “She’s got ‘sugar’. He’s got ‘sugar!” And of course that’s what they called diabetes back in the day and it seems as if practically everyone had ‘sugar’. Go figure! Fast forward to today and the situation is even worse, what with Type II diabetes being so prevalent. It is my opinion that mass food production was the beginning of the end for us because most of the world’s people are now toxin filled, obese, insulin injecting sugar cubes. More’s the pity.


  3. I, too, used to have an incredible sweet tooth, Shelby. I blame it on my gut bacteria. From what I understand, a high sugar diet leads to the proliferation of “inflammatory” bacteria in the intestine, and they’re the ones who make you crave sugar.


  4. I think Coca Cola lost superiority when it abandoned natural sugar for corn and other sugars. Natural sugar, when Coke was Coke. I met an Egyptian French teacher who told how the students loved Coke, whenever the truck parked outside, they drank it dry.


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