Pepsi Is (Checks Notes) Named After Indigestion

Whether you call it pop, soda, or simply cola, the sweet, fizzy drink has a long and sometimes strange history. In the case of Pepsi-Cola, it dates back more than a century. Just like Coca-Cola, Pepsi — which remains Coke's biggest competitor – was created by a pharmacist. By the turn of the century, many pharmacies had soda fountains where the owners would concoct their own homemade drinks. And, a little strangely, they billed these drinks as medicine.


In the case of Pepsi, its inventor, Caleb Bradham, owned a pharmacy in New Bern, North Carolina. Bradham crafted his drink in 1893 from the African kola nut, various citrus oils, soda water, and sugar, among other ingredients. He claimed it was good for calming an upset stomach and wanted a name that he felt might best exemplify this fact. He eventually settled on Pepsi-Cola. The Pepsi part of the name came from a medical term for indigestion: Dyspepsia. But before Pepsi was called Pepsi, it went through a few name and formula changes, not unlike when PepsiCo's Sierra Mist morphed into Starry not so long ago.

From Brad's drink to Pepsi-Cola

Before it was called Pepsi, the cola was known simply as "Brad's Drink" after its inventor. As the popularity of his new drink began to take off, Bradham decided he needed a punchier name. He bought the rights to the name "Pep Cola" from a rival New Jersey soft drink company. Bradham's drink probably did give customers some pep from the caffeine in the kola nuts, but because the pharmacist was aiming his product at fighting indigestion, he altered the name to Pepsi-Cola in 1998.


By the early 1900s he'd trademarked the name and patented the formula. The company has had many ups and downs, including going bankrupt in 1923, which led Bradham to sell Pepsi, but today it's still going strong more than 120 years later. Pepsi isn't the only soda that began life as a product purporting to cure ills. In fact, the entire industry was founded on this idea.

Pepsi was billed as a medicine

The history of the alleged medicinal value of sodas predates Pepsi's era. Way back in the 18th century, the scientific world was trying to perfect a way to mimic naturally sparkling mineral water, which was believed to have medicinal benefits. By the 1760s, they'd managed to artificially create sparkling water, paving the way for pharmacists to begin adding various ingredients they claimed had curative effects. By the time Pepsi came around, it was ready to hop on the medicinal trend: Its original tagline was "Exhilarating, Invigorating, Aids Digestion."


Maybe that slogan wasn't quite as memorable as the brand's later taglines, but at least it didn't have the same sad end as some of the drink's more recent catchphrases. After Pepsi dropped its slogan "The Choice of a New Generation" in the early 1990s, it lost the right to use it again — because someone at the company forgot to renew the copyright. An oatmeal company snatched up the tagline. Over the years Pepsi has gone through many changes both with its formula and its branding, but the name has stayed the same — though it's no longer billed as anything close to medicinal.