Many people still remember the Cola Wars of the early 1980s with nostalgia. At the time, Coke and Pepsi were aggressively competing for the number one spot in the soda market. Fortunately for everyone, it didn’t involve any physical confrontation. However, if it had, Pepsi might have been the clear winner. Let’s find out why.
In 1959, Eisenhower wanted to start relaxing some of the tensions between America and the Soviets. He arranged an exhibit to introduce Moscow to some American culture and products, and he sent Richard Nixon, who was Vice President at the time. Nixon and Khrushchev ended up getting into a fight over politics, in a moment that likely surprised no one on the planet.
The VP of Pepsi was there at just the right time with a nice cold glass to cool off Khrushchev. That’s how the story goes, at least. The accuracy of that anecdote is hard to confirm, but it is clear that a deal was struck. In 1972, Pepsi started supplying the USSR with their drinks.
Bartering for Pepsi
Now, here is the first amusing part of the story. Soviet money was not useful to Pepsi. Instead, they paid in that famous Russian commodity: vodka.
It gets much better though.
In the 1980s, vodka wasn’t paying the bills for Pepsi like before. Instead, they went to the next logical solution: a Cold War Era naval fleet!
This was complete with one cruiser, one destroyer and a frigate, backed up by 17 submarines. This temporarily made Pepsi the 6th largest military power in the entire world!
It was not to last though. For better or for worse, Pepsi is more about a refreshing drink than about naval operations. They sold the ships for scrap to a company in Sweden.
The most quotable part of this story comes from the former President of Pepsi, the late Donald Kendall. He once said to the NSA, “We are disarming the USSR faster than you!”