History of Mr. Pibb


"Ah, Mr. PiBB. The cornerstone of our love. Delicious, refreshing, and totally lacking in pretension."


For over four fizzy decades, Mr. Pibb has etched its place into America's carbonated consciousness.

Yet much of this iconic soda's origins and early days remain shrouded in mystery.

Join us as we delve into the misty history of Mr. Pibb, recounting tales of its enigmatic inception, intrepid marketing campaigns, reformulations and rebrandings.

From its audacious launch in the 1970s Cola Wars, to its 21st century reinventions, the story of Mr. Pibb bubbles over with fascinating lore.

So crack open an icy can and sip slowly as we present an effervescent exploration of this beloved brew's legendary history.


The original ad introducing Mr. Pibb
The Coca-Cola Company

The year was 1972.

The cola wars were in full force and the major soft drink empires jockeyed for position in the quest to quench Americans' thirst. Coca-Cola, the hegemon of refreshment, eyed the popularity of the unique cherry-flavored concoction Dr Pepper with envy.

Though a minnow compared to Coke's market-dominating whale, Dr Pepper's peppery sweetness had won a devoted following.

So Coke's food scientists retired to their carbonated labs, determined to formulate a worthy rival.

They emerged with an upstart brown brew, equally dark and sweet but with a bite of robust spices meant to distinguish it from Dr Pepper's more gentle cherry and vanilla undertones.

Coke christened their challenging creation "Mr. Pibb" and launched an aggressive campaign declaring him the new boss in town.

Mr. Pibb was a brash upstart, boldly confronting the established Dr like a gunslinger facing off against the old marshal.

His marketing tagline “Show ‘em who’s boss!” encapsulated the rebellious moxie Coke hoped would appeal to the new generation.

While Mr. Pibb could never unseat Dr Pepper as the don of pepper sodas, for a time he staked his claim as a zesty alternative, finding a loyal posse in those who craved a little more heat and daring in their drinks.


The original slogan of Mr. Pibb
The Coca-Cola Company

The genesis of the Mr. Pibb moniker has been lost to time, shrouded in mystery and speculation.

Some claim he was christened after a ingenious Coca-Cola employee who devised the recipe, known only as Mr. Pibb. Like the elusive Willy Wonka, Mr. Pibb quietly toiled away in the soda laboratories before bestowing his namesake concoction upon the world.

Others posit the name derived not from a man, but from the desired effect of the drink. "Pibb" evoking the very notion of "pep," the brisk effervescence percolating in each sip.

The "Mr." tagging on an air of quaint formality, but also an attempt to tap into the free-wheeling youth culture of the era through ironic juxtaposition.

Still more divine the name was a calculated play on sound and familiarity.

The euphonic "Pibb" bubbling forth like the drink itself, with "Mr." lending an air of family friendliness.

And the whole coming together to echo "bib," conjuring images of the beloved favored beverage of babies and toddlers. Perhaps a nostalgic subliminal link to comfort and happiness.

Alas, no definitive clues survive to unravel this Everest of soft drink history.

The true genesis of the Mr. Pibb name remains enshrouded in foggy mystery, its consonants and vowels provoking endless debate between historians.


A vintage Dr. Pepper ad
Dr. Pepper

The year was 1972. Coca-Cola had just unleashed its upstart challenger Mr. Pibb, a brash new cola concocted to take on the independent bottler's beloved pepper soda, Dr. Pepper.

Coke backed its feisty newcomer with a bold marketing campaign centered around the provocative slogan “Show ‘em who’s boss!”

This audacious tagline personified Mr. Pibb’s mission to unseat Dr. Pepper as the iconoclast of the soda fountain.

The slogan's confrontational tone was designed to attract the rebellious instincts of America’s restless youth culture. It framed the brand battle as a maverick upstart looking to dethrone a wealthy king.

But the bellicose motto soon stirred controversy across Middle America.

School principals balked at such confrontational messaging infiltrating their impressionable student bodies.

Media watchdogs decried the promotion of domineering attitudes.

Rival soda bottlers didn't take kindly to the impertinent newcomer's designs on their market share.

By 1974, the backlash against the pugnacious catchphrase reached Coke's executive boardroom.

While they aimed to project confidence, they determined such an audacious decree overshot the mark.

So the edict came down to pull the plug on "Show 'em who's boss!" and devise a new motto better suiting the progressive times.


Pibb Xtra branding in the modern day
The Coca-Cola Company

The dawn of the 21st century brought winds of change sweeping through the kingdom of carbonated elixirs, even an established realm like Mr. Pibb’s.

In 2001, nearly 30 years since Pibb first bubbled forth to rival Dr. Pepper, Coke decreed the peppery potion was due for a rejuvenation. They set their artisan brewers to the task, concocting a bold new formula for the modern era.

Gone was the familiar pure pepper essence of yore. In its place, the alchemists infused an essence of cinnamon, whose sweet yet spicy zest provided a tantalizing new kick.

They dubbed this improved potation “Pibb Xtra” to herald the enhanced flavor profile. The quasi-futuristic name, with its trendy truncated spelling, was meant to signal a new chapter for the soda brand.

This rebranding proved controversial, however, inciting protests from hardcore Pibb purists.

Many decried the cinnamon infusion as heresy that ruined the original’s pure pepper pedigree. Others felt the flashy new name reeked of trying too hard to appear hip and youthful.

They yearned nostalgically for good old Mr. Pibb rather than this imposter Pibb Xtra.

But the resentful traditionalists would not carry the day.

Coke forged ahead with Pibb Xtra, backed by a wave of promotional hype.

For a shining moment it seemed Coke had brewed the perfect potion to reinvigorate interest amid the shifting soda landscape of the new millennium.


a handful of prunes
History Oasis

Like any legend with uncertain roots, the decades-long persistence of the great Prune Juice Theory intrigues and captivates soda scholars.

It posits that in developing their upstart challenger to Dr Pepper in 1972, Coca-Cola was confronted with an abundance of wasted prune juice.

Rather than discard the unpalatable purple byproduct, the story goes, Coke's resourceful beverage chemists devised a clever repurposing.

They carefully incorporated just enough of the concentrated plum essence to deepen the caramel hue of their new pepper soda, tentatively titled Mr. Pibb.

The enriched color better matched the dark richness so coveted in cola drinks.

Yet the trace touch of prunes' mild bitterness and fruity undertones actually enhanced Mr. Pibb’s flavor complexity without being overtly detectable.

It was marketing alchemy—transforming a waste product into the secret ingredient!

While Coca-Cola has never confirmed its use of surplus prune juice in Mr. Pibb's origins, ardent believers in the legend insist it provides the only sensible explanation for the drink's distinct dark tones.

They point to it as an example of innovative corporate re-purposing that should be lauded, not covered up. Pibb enthusiasts continue clinging to their prune juice theory, asserting its likelihood even if unverified, for legends need not confirm to facts.


A screenshot from a Mr. Pibb commercial
The Coca-Cola Company

The 1990s were a pivotal era for the once-ascendant Mr. Pibb, as the brand's popularity was slowly going flat.

After two decades on the market, the soda was no longer the fresh alternative to Dr. Pepper it once was.

To stay relevant with younger demographics, Coca-Cola adopted an edgier, attention-grabbing approach in its advertising.

Gone were the days of straightforward celebrity endorsements or jingles.

Now Mr. Pibb’s commercials got turned over to animators and designers, who conjured up fantastical worlds inhabited by zany creatures, psychedelic colors and absurd antics.

Each ad tried to outdo the last on sheer wackiness.

One memorable spot featured a motley crew of colorful cyclops characters using their eye-beams to play a game suspiciously like Pibb pong.

Another had a wise-cracking blob creature guzzling Pibb while making pop culture references that would appeal to teens. The characters’ off-kilter appearances and nonsense hijinks reflected the "alternative" aesthetic popular in 1990s youth culture.

Coca-Cola hoped this unconventional approach would make the brand feel fresh, funny and irresistible to young demographics.

The strategy aimed squarely at Gen X’s cynicism and thirst for irony. While the ads succeeded in getting attention, they proved too offbeat to give Mr. Pibb any lasting boost.

But the campaign left an indelible mark on the brand’s history, capturing the creative marketing risks companies took trying to capture 90s cool. Mr. Pibb’s wacky characters have since become icons of their “try anything” era.


An ad for Mr Pibb at a cinema
The Coca-Cola Company

Though originally formulated as a imitator of Dr Pepper, Pibb Xtra has over the decades accrued a devoted cult fanbase who proclaim its supremacy.

They are drawn to its spicy, cinnamon-kissed flavor profile, declaring it the ideal blend of sweet and spice.

This loyal following has only grown more zealous over the years despite Pibb Xtra's perpetual also-ran status on store shelves and soda fountains.

For these "Pibbists", finding their cherished brew stocked anywhere becomes cause for celebration, as it is far less ubiquitous than category leader Dr Pepper.

The difficulty of the search enhances the connection.

They share prized intel of confirmed Pibb Xtra sightings and stash spots like treasure maps. Conventions bring the faithful together to trade merch, share tasting notes, and bask in their collective Pibb fervor.

Online communities enable Pibb People nationwide to evangelize their building-sized love for the underdog soda.

They speak of "taking the Pibb pledge" and exhibit the brand loyalty of sports fanatics. Those who stumble upon the Pibb fandom for the first time react with amused bafflement, struggling to comprehend the feverish devotion generated by this offbeat beverage.

Yet for those within the fold, Pibb Xtra is the one true king of pepper soda.

They savor its bittersweet flavor rejected by the masses, feeling their distinct tastes make them unique. The Pibbists' passion has elevated their cult soda to a place of esteem and forged bonds that go far beyond beverages.


A vintage Mr. Pibb ad that says "have a Pibb, Mister."
The Coca-Cola Company

Though Mr. Pibb has been a fixture of American soda fountains for over four decades now, much of the beloved brew’s early history remains clouded in uncertainty.

When the Coca-Cola Company first concocted their spicy cola concoction to take on rival Dr Pepper in 1972, public fanfare surrounded its launch.

But curiously, concrete details on Mr. Pibb’s genesis seemed to evaporate as quickly as the fizz rising from its brown bubbles.

Who first devised the signature Pibb formula?

What inspirations led to its flavor profile? Why was it dubbed Mr. Pibb in the first place?

One would expect such foundational facts to be well documented for a major brand.

Yet the corporate record provides only the sparest of facts on these formative matters. It is as if Coke, having resolved to create a pepper soda rival, simply plucked Mr. Pibb fully formed from the ether.

This information vacuum has over the years given rise to abundant rumor, speculation and myth seeking to explain Mr. Pibb’s unclear origins.

As with any enigma, the lack of clear truths allows imaginations to run wild conjuring all manner of possibilities. The most tantalizing explanations endure as urban folklore, their very lack of verification adding to their allure.

So as long as official sources remain sparse, the early days of Mr. Pibb’s beginnings shall be fertile terrain for creative troves of soda lore.

The unknowable origins imbue the drink with an air of novelty and mystique, making every sip a bit more intriguing to ponder.

The engaging enigma of Mr. Pibb’s roots shall ever provide fizzy fodder for inquisitive minds.