Journey: A Glimpse Into The History of Pepsi Bottles

In 1893, the druggist Caleb Bradham created the soda “Brad’s Drink”. Later on, he renamed it Pepsi, after the combination of two key ingredients: pepsin and kola nuts. Today, Pepsi has become one of the most widely recognized brands, selling around $108 billion dollars worth of products worldwide in 2009, 37% of that due to beverages alone (PepsiCo). Glass bottles have played a huge role in the promotion, sale, and history of Pepsi. By examining the designs, sizes, shapes, colors, and/or labels of Pepsi bottles, we can learn about the circumstances within the Pepsi Company as well as various social conditions during the time period in which they were produced.  Bob Stoddard, one of the leading experts in Pepsi collectibles, shows this when he describes three stages in the history of Pepsi-Cola bottles: The Six-Ounce Bottle Era, The Twelve-Ounce Bottle Era, and The Non-returnable Bottle Era.  

The 6 oz. Bottle Era [1905-1933]

  • Bottles were primarily packaged and sold in 6 ounce bottles
  • Shapes and colors of bottles were mostly determined by local glass manufacturers.
  • From 1923-1931, there was a desire to use a standardized bottle, but as a result of financial difficulties, this was never entirely implemented.

The 12oz. Bottle Era [1934-1960]

  • In 1934, Pepsi began to offer 12 ounce bottles for five cents, and they were typically decorated with paper labels.
  • In 1940, the Pepsi Company introduced their first standardized bottle, which had Pepsi-Cola blown into the neck with a paper label on the neck and body.
  • The year 1958 marked a huge change in bottle design, as Pepsi introduced the “swirl” bottle. This was the last returnable bottle design used by the Pepsi-Cola company.   

The Non-returnable Bottle Era [1964-Present]

  • With the advent of the automobile, American society became an increasingly mobile one, and this brought about the need for more convenient soda containers.
  • Non-returnable bottles, or alternatively, no deposit bottles, were smaller and lighter, and they could be disposed of anywhere.
  • Due to the rising popularity of disposable aluminum cans, these types of bottles have never acquired the status as the older forms of Pepsi bottles.                                                                                             -Stoddard  p. 114-116
  1. “PepsiCo Annual Report.” PepsiCo. 2009. 20 Nov. 2010.  
  2. Stoddard, Bob. The Encyclopedia of Pepsi-Cola Collectibles. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2002

If you would like to learn more about the history of Pepsi, please click here.

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