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Roger Enrico Dies At 71; Led PepsiCo During 'Cola Wars'

Posted On: 6/7/2016

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TAGS: Pepsi, Cola Wars, Roger Enrico, Frito-Lay, Indra Nooyi, The Other Guy Blinked How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars, vending

Pepsi, Cola Wars, Roger Enrico GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands -- Roger Enrico, who led PepsiCo's advertising campaign during the cola wars that gave Pepsi's rival Coke a run for its money in the 1980s, died on June 2 while vacationing in the Cayman Islands. He was 71.

After serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Enrico joined PepsiCo subsidiary Frito-Lay in 1971 as a brand manager, helping to market Funyuns. He later moved to Japan and then South America, where he led PepsiCo's regional operations.

In 1983, at the age of 38, he was appointed chief executive of Pepsi-Cola USA. Almost immediately, he signed a multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with Michael Jackson for the legendary "Choice for a New Generation" campaign.

As Pepsi's market share grew, Coca-Cola in 1985 changed its 99-year-old formula with the introduction of sweeter "New Coke." It quickly changed it back after backlash from angry customers.

"After 87 years of going at it eyeball to eyeball, the other guy just blinked," Enrico said in a full-page advertisement in American newspapers on the day that Coca-Cola announced the change. "There is no question the long-term market success of Pepsi has forced this move."

Enrico was PepsiCo's chairman from 1996 to 2001. He retired from PepsiCo in 2001, and returned to work as chairman of DreamWorks Animation between 2004 and 2012.

"Roger Enrico was, quite simply, one of the most creative marketers of his or any generation. He was a risk-taker, never afraid to challenge the status quo," PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi said in a statement. "Today is an incredibly sad day for the PepsiCo family, for we have lost one of the true legends of our company and our industry."

Enrico chronicled PepsiCo's war against Coca-Cola in his 1986 memoir, "The Other Guy Blinked -- How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars," written with Jesse Kornbluth. However, Coca-Cola later regained market share and has since held the leading cola trademark.

Enrico is survived by his wife Rosemary, his son Aaron Enrico and three grandchildren.