It is officially known as the oldest soda pop in the United States. It isn’t Coca-Cola, which came one year later. It isn’t Pepsi, either. No, the oldest commercial soda pop in the U.S. is none other than Dr. Pepper. Throughout its history, Dr. Pepper’s ownership has changed a number of times. So, who owns Dr. Pepper now and how did they get their hands on the country’s older soda pop?
WHO OWNS DOCTOR PEPPER – HE WASN’T A DOCTOR
The advent of who owns Dr. Pepper is generally attributed to Charles Alderton. Although Alderton was not a physician, he was a pharmacist working in Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in the early 1880s. For most of Alderton’s day, he would be in the Corner Drug Store mixing medicines for the friendly people of Waco, Texas. But in his spare time, he also liked to serve carbonated sodas from the soda fountain. The idea of a new carbonated soda came to him because he loved the smell of the drug store as it was filled with the aroma of the fruit syrups used for making the soda drinks. Because of those wonderful aromas, Alderton decided he wanted to create his own soda that tasted like the smell of the drug store. So, he went to work on it and who owns Dr Pepper started to take shape.
He kept a journal of his progress and when he was happy with the product, he let store owner Wade Morrison give it a try. Morrison found the new drink pleasing, so Alderton began to mix more of it and sell it at the store. He was the one who owned all of the Dr Pepper supply to start. Patrons began to flock to the store to order the new concoction and soon after, Alderton knew he had a hit.
“I’M A PEPPER”
Who owns Dr Pepper doesn’t even start with that as the original name. Believe it or not, the very first name attributed to the drink was not Dr. Pepper. Patrons, when ordering it at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store, called it a “Waco.” But Alderton and Morrison knew that name wasn’t going to fly if the drink was to become a bigger hit. The exact origin of the Dr. Pepper name is surrounded by a number of differing theories.
The first one involves the term, “Dr.” It was thought that they pulled this name because back in the day, product inventors were trying to show, through their name, that their product was healthy. Even soda pop. In this way, folks would think that who owns Dr Pepper was someone actually in the medical field.
Another theory states that the drink was named after an actual doctor whose name was Charles T. Pepper. This doctor lived in Rural Retreat, Virginia and it was thought the name was used in gratitude for Pepper giving Morrison his first job. This was debunked as census records show Morrison lived too far away from Charles Pepper. There was also another theory coming from the Charles Pepper front. It was said that Morrison used his name because Pepper gave him permission to marry his daughter. Another story was debunked because when Morrison moved to Waco, the girl in question was only 8 years old.
There was another theory around who owns the credit for the Dr Pepper name. That also involved Dr. William Alexander Reed Pepper. A census at the time shows that Morrison did live fairly close together and that this Dr. Pepper did have a daughter who, at the time, was 16 years old.
Ultimately, the exact origins of the Dr Pepper name remain murky. We may never know exactly where the name came from. There is one thing we do know about the name though – what happened to that dot.
WHO OWNS DR PEPPER? DROPPING THE DOT
Officially, the first owner of the drink was Charles Alderton as he was the inventor of the drink. But as time went on the popularity grew, Alderton and Morrison began to face a growing problem. There was simply no way they could keep up with the demand. Dr Pepper was a hit and it was outgrowing what the two could produce.
Thankfully, there was another person who was very impressed with the product. His name was Robert S. Lazenby, the owner of the Circle “A” Ginger Ale Company, which was also located in Waco. Lazenby was so impressed with the product that he wanted to manufacture, bottle, and distribute the soda. Alderton, though, was losing interest fast in that part of the business. In fact, Alderton did want any part of the Dr Pepper business. So, he agreed to let Morrison and Lazenby take over.
By the time 1891 rolled around, Morrison and Lazenby had formed a new form called the Artesian Mfg. & Bottling Company. From that, the company eventually turned into Dr Pepper Company. In 1923, Lazenby and his son-in-law moved the business from Waco to Dallas, Texas.
You may now notice that the Dr in Dr Pepper no longer carries the dot after it. The company used the dot intermittently up until the 1950s when, after a considerable debate on the matter, it was dropped permanently. This decision was based on style and legibility reasons.
WHO OWNS DR PEPPER TODAY?
For the longest period, Dr Pepper was part of the Dr Pepper Company. But as the 70s turned into the 80s, the company became insolvent. So, because it couldn’t pay its bills, the company was taken private in order to get itself out of debt. A number of years later, Coca-Cola attempted to purchase Dr Pepper, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put the kibosh on the maneuver. Not long after Coca-Cola’s failure to nab Dr Pepper, it instead merged with Seven Up and became Dr Pepper/Seven Up (DPSU), Inc. Coca-Cola wasn’t done, though. After the DPSU merger, Coca-Cola obtained nearly all of the non-US rights to Dr Pepper’s name. PepsiCo took over the non-US rights to the Seven Up name.
Things get a little more convoluted for Dr Pepper as time moves on. It was merger after merger that saw Dr Pepper change hands a number of times. The DPSU group was taken over by Snapple to form the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Then, in 2018, they were acquired by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Keurig Green Mountain to form Keurig Dr Pepper Inc.
There are a number of players who own Keurig Dr Pepper. Some of the top owners include T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. (5.45%), Capital Research & Management Co. (3.71%), The Vanguard Group, Inc. (3.36%), Capital Research & Management Co. (yes, another one at 3.18%), and Harris Associates LP (3.14%).
Today, Dr Pepper remains owned by the Keurig Dr Pepper company. The formula for their popular soda remains locked away from prying eyes, but they have added a number of different flavors to spice up the original recipe – 23 to be exact. So, if you like your Dr Pepper with hints of cherry, licorice, amaretto, blackberry, apricot, and orange (among the 23), just head to your local grocery store for a sampling. If you can’t find a decent selection there, you can head to the Keurig Dr Pepper website and place your order.