Following up on one of the byways of this thread on the Cola wars. Peter, the New York Times Book Review gave a favorable review to [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/books/review/Goldstein.t.html?ref=review]THE REAL PEPSI CHALLENGE
The Inspirational Story of Breaking the Color Barrier in American Business. [/url]
The following extract shows how deeply soft drinks go into the fabric of American culture:
“The Real Pepsi Challenge” begins with a creative, dynamic white New York businessman, a politically connected, progressive Republican turnaround specialist named Walter S. Mack Jr., who took over Pepsi in 1938. Mack, in his own words “an unrepentant capitalist and a liberal” who enjoyed playing, as Capparell puts it, “scrappy David to the Goliath that was Coca-Cola” (Pepsi’s 1939 sales were under $5 million, compared with Coca-Cola’s $128 million), decided to strengthen Pepsi’s hold on the “Negro market.” Pepsi’s 12-ounce bottle, twice the size of a Coke, sold for the same nickel, which made it more popular among poorer people; according to Capparell, Pepsi had “survived the Depression by appealing to Negro consumers.”
Mack more or less invented the business internship in 1940, with a nationwide essay contest for college graduates. Two of the 13 winners were black; they traveled through 21 states and “thousands of miles by car, train and bus, selling Pepsi” and, by implication, Pepsi’s commitment to African-Americans. World War II interrupted the program, though not Walter Mack’s racial activism: Pepsi opened three integrated military canteens that served 29 million servicemen during and after the war, while “the government’s canteens — like the Army itself — were segregated.”
Capparell deftly portrays the optimism of the immediate postwar years, especially regarding what she calls the “dizzying number of firsts for African-Americans” — in business, education, politics, entertainment and, of course, baseball — in the banner year of 1947. That year Mack hired the 33-year-old Edward F. Boyd, a National Urban League staff member working on housing issues, with a promise that Boyd could hire a dozen African-American salesmen. A slump in the soft-drink market kept Boyd to just four hires at first; his staff grew to eight in 1950, and finally reached 12 a year later. The book mostly recounts the story of Boyd’s special-markets team — the employees’ backgrounds, how they sold the cola, the coverage they received in the black press — and Pepsi’s shifting fortunes in an often volatile market.