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Which soda is more popular: Coke or Pepsi?

Which soda is more popular Coke or Pepsi

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Even before the “Pepsi Challenge” commercials in the 80s, there was debate about the “best” cola.

Pepsi Challenge in 1981
The Pepsi Challenge in 1980-1981 (Photo courtesy PepsiCo annual report)

Since that’s impossible to answer that question on behalf of the entire world’s population, a more quantifiable question would be: Is Coke or Pepsi most popular, in terms of sales?

This cola takes the prize

In the United States, when you’re talking about which is the most popular cola brand — and not the expansive product lines their parent companies offer — the answer is clear… well, clear brown.

Bubbly cola soda close-up in a glass with ice
Picture by BillionPhotos/Freepik

The #1 carbonated soft drink brand in the US is Coke (aka Coca-Cola Classic), according to statistics compiled by industry trade publication Beverage Digest in 2022.

Coke led the pack with a 19.4% market share, when ranked by sales volume of 192-ounce cases, which is twelve 16-ounce cans, or 24 8-ounce servings.

Pepsi was number two, with 8.9% of the market. 

In both cases, we’re talking about these specific sodas, and not the diet or flavored versions. Diet Coke held its own at #5, with 8%, while Diet Pepsi had 3.8% of the market.

Pepsi vs Coke, round 2

In a financial sense, the result is the same.

Coca-Cola is the winner, with a brand value of $74.7B compared to Pepsi’s $13.74B, according to data compiled by Statista. (Diet Coke is no slouch, either, coming in with a value of $12.81B.)

Which is more popular: Coke or Pepsi, global edition

That status remains the same when you expand the view to include each of the company’s sodas and soft drinks. 

Worldwide in 2021, Coke sold 2.1 billion (8-ounce) servings per day of beverages that had one of the trademarks owned by or licensed to them, per the company’s SEC report in 2021.

That comes out to an astonishing 766.5 billion servings per year on a planet that only holds about 8 billion people.

Pepsi has stated that as of 2019, they sold about 1.5 billion servings a day. No matter how you look at it, these are huge numbers.

Which company is bigger?

In terms of global net sales for the corporations — both of which began with one simple cola soda — the picture’s a little different. 

Both Coke and Pepsi are the flagship soft drinks behind some enormous companies, now each with hundreds of different products.

For example, the Coca-Cola Company has focused on the beverage market, and their brands include Barq’s, SmartWater, Minute Maid, and many others. 

PepsiCo products as of 2021
PepsiCo products as of 2021 (Photo via PepsiCo)

Pepsi, on the other hand, has many beverage brands beyond the colas — including drinks like Gatorade, Mountain Dew and Lipton Teas — but they also own Frito-Lay (home of Cheetos, Doritos, Rold Gold, Lays and lots of other addictive snacks), as well as the Quaker Oats Company.

Coke vs Pepsi: The corporate numbers

So, looking at the businesses with that lens, Pepsi is the winner.

Their annual reports tell the score: the global net operating revenues for 2021 were $79.5 billion for PepsiCo (source), and $38.7 billion for The Coca-Cola Company (source).

Cola glass with ice
Photo licensed via Freepik

What’s next?

As for the future, who’s to say? Maybe Pepsi will launch the Next Great Soda, or Coke will buy Disney… or vice versa.

The tapestry of both brands is constantly changing, with new companies being bought, others sold outright, and some sold with a continuing investment or commercial relationships.

One thing is for sure: the soda/soft drink market has been here for a century, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon… and if you’re here on this site, that’s probably a good thing.

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