Cola Wars PepsiCo developer Donald M. Kendall dies at 99

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Donald M. Kendall, who made PepsiCo Inc. a snack and drink juggernaut and introduced the Soviet Union to American cola during the height of the Cold War, died on Saturday. He was 99 years old.

The executive, who grew up dealing with cows and only completed three semesters of college, became general manager of Pepsi-Cola Co. in 1963 at the age of 42 and chaired the company until retired in 1986. During that time, sales have grown for almost 40 years. through acquisitions and the “Pepsi Challenge” – its high-level marketing assault on the dominance of rival Coca-Cola Co.

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“He was relentless in the growth of our business, a fearless leader and the ultimate seller,” said Ramon Laguarta, CEO and President of PepsiCo. “In many ways, he was the one who created PepsiCo PepsiCo.”

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Shortly after Mr. Kendall became CEO, the company launched its “Pepsi Generation” campaign which touted Pepsi as the hip and upstart cola for young people and Coke as staid and old-fashioned. PepsiCo put its flagship brand on Diet Pepsi, which rocketed diet soda into the big time, as a more cautious Coke stuck to its diet offering, Tab. And under Mr. Kendall’s direction, the company conducted its “Pepsi Challenge” taste tests pitting Pepsi directly against Coke.

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Mr Kendall said the two companies benefited from the “Cola War”, a rivalry that continues today. “They brought out the best in us,” he says. “If it weren’t for Coca-Cola, we should have invented one, and they should have invented Pepsi.

In 1965, Mr. Kendall agreed to another bold move: the merger of New York-based Pepsi-Cola Co. with Dallas-based chip giant Frito-Lay Co..

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