Donald M. Kendall, who turned PepsiCo Inc. into a snack and beverage cola and introduced the Soviet Union to American cola at the height of the Cold War, died Saturday. He was 99 years old.
The executive, who grew up milking cows and finished just three semesters of college, became CEO of Pepsi-Cola Co. in 1963 at the age of 42 and chaired the company until his retirement in 1986. During that time , sales grew nearly 40-fold acquisitions and the “Pepsi Challenge,”
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“He was relentless in growing our business, a fearless leader and the ultimate seller,” said Ramon Laguarta, CEO and President of PepsiCo. “In many ways, he was the man who created PepsiCo PepsiCo.”
Shortly after Mr. Kendall became CEO, the company launched its “Pepsi Generation” campaign which chose Pepsi as the trendy and innovative cola for young people and Coca-Cola as serious and antiquated. PepsiCo put its flagship brand on Diet Pepsi, which catapulted diet soda into the big moment, as a more cautious Coke kept its diet offering, Tab. And under Mr. Kendall’s leadership, the company led his “Pepsi Challenge” tasting tests pitting Pepsi directly against Coca-Cola.
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Mr. Kendall famously claimed that both companies benefited from the “cola wars”, a rivalry that continues to this day. “They brought out the best in us,” he said. “If there wasn’t a Coke, we would have had to invent one and they would have had to invent Pepsi.”
In 1965, Mr. Kendall accepted another bold move: to merge New York-based Pepsi-Cola Co. with Dallas-based potato chip giant Frito-Lay Co.
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