Pepsi was a first mover in the Soviet Union
IE Akdash Mive Ichgileri is the authorized Pepsi bottler for Turkmenistan. Located in the capital of Ashgabat, Akdash also produces bottled spring water and other soft drinks for the entire country. As part of the former Soviet Union, it was not always easy to get American products in Turkmenistan, and in fact Pepsi Cola was the first American brand to establish a presence there. The story of the beginnings of American capitalism in the seat of the Russian empire during the height of the Cold War is a fascinating one.
You Show me Yours and I’ll Show you Mine
In the record breaking heat of July, 1959 the United States and the Soviet Union had one of the most notable encounters of the Cold War. The place was Solkoniki Park in suburban Moscow, and the event was the American National Exhibition. After a similar event mounted by the Soviets the month before in New York, the Americans got their chance to show off in front of the 2.7 million visitors who visited pavilions built in the most modern architectural style, including a geodesic dome a la Buckminster Fuller. The exhibit halls were filled with fashion, televisions, boats, stereos, art, cars, appliances, tractors and Polaroid cameras. American soft drink bottler Pepsi had a presence too, after Coca Cola turned down an invitation.
The Americans respond the next month in Moscow
Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev attended opening day together, and participated in one of the most iconic events of the late 1950’s back and forth rivalry between their two countries. It was a rare moment of frank and personal communication during a time marked by the launching of Sputnik, the downing of an American U-2 spy plane, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In spite of the technological marvels on display, the United States had to mount the event on a shoestring budget. As a result, corporate sponsorship was a key at a time when there were practically no prospects of selling American goods in the Soviet Union. For most companies who participated, the motivation must have been more patriotic than commercial. However, lines to enter the pavillions were long under the sweltering July sun, at least one American guide met his future bride, a sixteen year old girl named Tatyana Stepanova, and many Russians got their first and only up close and personal glimpse of American society.
As Nixon and Khrushchev made their way through the pavilions that first day, they entered what was billed as a model house affordable by an average American family. They stopped in front of the kitchen, which was full of the latest gadgets designed to make the American homemaker’s life easier. Nixon took advantage of the opportunity to point out how freedom and capitalism had allowed the United States to provide a superior lifestyle to that experienced by those living under the communist Soviet regime, even after acknowledging the Soviet Union’s advances in rocket science. Khrushchev didn’t believe that the average American could afford such luxury, a sentiment echoed in the Soviet press, which opined that the average American was about as likely to buy the model home as an average Indian would buy the Taj Mahal. The famous “Kitchen Debate” was on. But it didn’t end in the kitchen.
The two men continued to the RCA television studio, and Nixon pointed out that their encounter was being recorded on color videotape, another advancement of capitalism. "This indicates the possibilities of increasing communication, and this increasing communication will teach us some things and it will teach you some things, too. Because after all, you don't know everything."
Khrushchev didn’t believe that communication would necessarily increase. "What I have to say is being translated only into your ear, but the American people will never hear it." A month later, however, the interview was broadcast to rapt audiences in both countries. Ironically, the American company which had manufactured the color video recording equipment was Ampex, founded by a Russian immigrant named Ponyatov, who also invented the television cameras being used.
In the geodesic dome, the USA set up seven 20 x 30 foot screens and projected a film called “Glimpses of the U.S.A.” where Russians could see scenes of farmland, skyscrapers, automobiles and school buses, suburban tract housing, superhighways full of traffic, bridges, and Americans kissing and riding bikes. It was a mix of humanity, nature and technology.
Exhibiting at Moscow was a huge risk for Pepsi head Donald Kendall. He tells the story that many of his colleagues at the company were skeptical of the investment that Pepsi was making. Keenly interested that the show be a success, he found Nixon the night before opening, and asked for a favor. Would Nixon be able to get Khrushchev to drink a Pepsi for the cameras? The next day, Nixon came through, and Kendall got the chance to hand Khrushchev a cup of Pepsi made in the U.S.A. and a cup that had been made in the Soviet Union. Khrushchev declared that the Russian version was better, and so the story goes, started distributing it to everyone around, telling them they should try a “good” Pepsi. At the time, one of the taglines for Pepsi was “Be Sociable, Have a Pepsi,” and here was the Soviet premier, doing just that...
In spite of the fact that companies like Sears, RCA, General Motors, Ford, Whirlpool, General Mills, Macy´s, Betty Crocker were present, only Pepsi managed to sign an agreement to sell products in the Soviet Union.
The exhibit from 1959 showed that connection on a personal level can have a long lasting positive effect. Many of the 75 Americans who went to Moscow as guides have continued their involvement with the Soviet Union and Russia as diplomats, writers and academics, helping to engender understanding and thaw relationships. Maybe the soft diplomacy engaged in by the two countries more than five decades ago can serve as a model for them today.
Though it took a while to establish, the relationships that Pepsi began in Moscow eventually resulted in an agreement whereby Pepsi became the first American consumer product to be produced, marketed and sold in the Soviet Union. Eventually, more than twenty Pepsi plants were opened in the Soviet Union, and Pepsi was the official sponsor of the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow. In 1990, Pepsi made history again by signing the largest commercial trade agreement ever with the Soviet Union. Pepsi became so successful in the Soviet Union that the population believed it was a local product. And today, Russia is the largest single international market for Pepsi.
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, each of the former republics have followed their own paths in business and government, but Pepsi Cola remains as popular as ever. The brand is well established, and it is incredibly important that the highest standards of quality and brand protection be employed at all times in order to protect the value that has been developed for the past three decades. So when the company decided to open a plant in Turkmenistan, the natural choice was Akdash Mive Ichgileri in the capital of Ashgabat. The company offers a product line of more than 15 non-alcoholic beverages. Operations are fully automated in accordance with world standards and, in addition to bottled soft drinks, the company offers bottled water from the Gotur Ata spring, along with free home delivery.
Akdash Mive Ichgileri has won numerous national awards and offers its customers not only variety, but the highest quality standards that can only be produced in a modern state of the art facility. The plant in Ashgabat was opened in 2009 on a greenfield site consisting of 10 hectares, after careful evaluation and inspection by government authorities and by PepsiCo. It is equipped with the most modern bottling, logistics and quality control technologies, and lives up to world standards for transparent business practices, quality, social responsibility, sustainability, environmental protection and hygiene.
Akdash Mive Ichgileri is a company that is meeting the standard set long ago by Pepsi for quality in an iconic brand.
Because of its commitment to continuous quality improvement, IE Akdash Mive Ichgileri has been selected to receive the BID International Star Award for Quality for 2015 at the convention in Geneva.
About BID and the International Star Award for Quality:
BID is a private and independent organization founded in 1984, whose primary activity is business communication orientated towards quality, excellence and innovation in management. A leader in the broadcasting of Quality Culture, BID recognizes those companies and organizations which lead the most important activities in the business world, and is considered the founding organization in the broadcasting of the Culture of Quality, Excellence and Innovation in 179 countries.
The trophy symbolizes a pledge to the principles of Quality Culture. The QC100 Total Quality Management Model, together with the Quality Mix program, media coverage of the convention and its impact on the community and business sector, create an unmatched platform for continuous improvement within the organization and awareness of the achievements of the company at an international level.
Awards are given only to those who are committed to improving their Quality Culture based on the principles of the QC100 Total Quality Management Model. Candidates are proposed by the leaders of previously awarded companies who they consider worthy of the award. Especially meritorious candidates may also be nominated. The International BID Quality Award Selection Committee then chooses the winning companies who will receive the award in New York, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Madrid and London.