Dr Pepper vs. Mr. Pibb: The True Story Behind Classic Cola Wars

Dr Pepper and Mr. Pibb are two cola-flavored drinks that have a lot in common—but also some differences.

Credits: Tay Waters

At more than 130 years old, Dr Pepper is the oldest soft drink in the United States. Since its invention in the 1880s, Dr Pepper has been a true American classic.

It all started with a pharmacist named Charles Alderton, who invented the drink in Waco, Texas, in the 1880s. It was first served in 1885 at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store. Wade Morrison, the store owner, liked it and named it Dr Pepper.

The secret formula behind Dr Pepper is a well-guarded one. The recipe is allegedly kept in two separate safe deposit boxes in two different Dallas banks, with only a few people in the company knowing the entire formula at any given time.

The company has also revealed that it does not contain prune juice or prune extract—despite frequent rumors that it does. The company website states that its formula is a “unique blend of natural and artificial flavors.”

The Battle Between Mr. Pibb & Dr Pepper

Mr. Pibb(sometimes written as Mr. PiBB) was introduced in 1972 by the Coca-Cola Company, which wanted to compete with the popularity of Dr Pepper in the South.

The beverage’s original name was Peppo, but Dr Pepper manufacturers sued Coca-Cola for copyright infringement, so the name was changed to Mr. Pibb instead. Mr. Pibb was first introduced in Waco, Texas, the birthplace of Dr Pepper, before it became a nationwide sensation. With its subtle cherry flavor, it is beloved by many.

When Mr. PiBB first went on the market, a slogan was printed on its cans that said, “It Goes Down Good.”

In 1975, Coca-Cola changed the color of its Mr. PiBB can from brown to red, likely as a result of market research that suggested the brownish color gave consumers the impression that PiBB was a form of root beer.

On June 27, 2001, the company changed its name to Pibb Xtra. The formula was modified, along with the addition of more cinnamon flavor. Now, Pibb Xtra has been marketed as a spicy cherry alternative to regular cola. The company also introduced a dietetic version of Mr. PiBB called Pibb Zero.

Pibb Xtra is almost identical to Dr Pepper, and the taste difference is comparable to that between Coca Cola and Pepsi.

Currently, Dr Pepper is distributed in different parts of the world by three separate companies. The Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. has exclusive rights to sell Dr Pepper throughout the United States, while Coca-Cola Company sells it in Europe and South Korea, and PepsiCo distributes the drink in Canada and Oceania.

Although Mr. Pibb can be found throughout the U.S., it has not proven to be a serious competitor to Dr Pepper due to its short history as an independent beverage brand.

Dr Pepper Ingredients

Carbonated Water, Phosphoric Acid, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate(Preservative), Potassium Sorbate(Preservative), Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium), Caffeine, Contains a Source of Phenylalanine.

Mr. Pibb Ingredients

Carbonated Water, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Potassium Sorbate and Potassium Benzoate (to Protect Taste), Artificial and Natural Flavors, Caffeine, Monosodium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Polyethylene Glycol.

Both Mr. Pibb and Dr Pepper use flavor stabilizers, so you get a consistent taste over time.

The Mystery of Dr Pepper’s Name

There are many theories about where Dr Pepper got its name.

Some say that it’s named for the practice common at the time of including Dr. in the names of healthful products, while others claim that the drink is named for Charles T. Pepper, a physician in Rural Retreat, Virginia who gave Morrison his first job. Others still say that Morrison named the drink after Charles T. Pepper, who gave permission for Morrison to marry his daughter.

The truth is, we aren’t entirely sure. No matter where the name came from, one thing is certain: it’s had quite a journey since 1885, when pharmacist Charles Alderton initially brewed up the soft drink and offered a taste to Morrison.

To sum up,

Dr Pepper is a classic soft drink that has stood the test of time. It’s been around for over 130 years, and it seems unlikely to disappear from grocery store shelves anytime soon. Although Pibb does have a presence in the U.S., Dr Pepper is more widely available, and it continues to sell well to both longtime fans and newcomers alike.

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