The name is credited to Pemberton’s partner and bookkeeper, Frank Mason Robinson, who also designed the distinctive “Coca-Cola” script still used today. Much of Coca-Cola’s success is also attributed to Asa Griggs Candler, often called the company’s co-founder, who took over the fledgling firm after Pemberton’s death in 1888. With an aggressive free-sample program, Candler expanded the company beyond Atlanta soda fountains.
Among those rivals was Brad’s Drink, concocted in 1893 by yet another druggist, Caleb Davis Bradham of New Bern, NC. Five years later, he renamed his drink Pepsi-Cola, reflecting his belief that it would relieve indigestion (dyspepsia). The company grew rapidly and by 1910 boasted 240 franchises in 24 states. But WWI sugar shortages and an inopportune purchase of high-priced sugar crippled Pepsi-Cola, which ultimately declared bankruptcy.
By 1983, Pepsi was outselling Coke in supermarkets, leading to the disastrous rollout of New Coke. After a retooling and relentless brand marketing—as seen in this year’s Coke bottle centennial—today Coca-Cola is by far the number-one soft drink, followed by Diet Coke and Pepsi.