In 1943, a new car cost $900, the price of gasoline was fifteen cents a gallon, and a bottle of Pepsi-Cola was a nickel. That year was also the year when Fred and Monica Nackard took a leap of faith, signing a partnership agreement with the Pepsi-Cola Company, and launching an enterprise that celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year.
Nackard Pepsi has come a long way since 1943, and like any successful company, they have a story worth telling. Although the Nackards joined the Pepsi family that year, the story of their business actually begins shortly after the repeal of Prohibition when the country was still climbing out from the depths of the Great Depression. To be precise, the year was 1934 – a time when cattle and sheep outnumbered people in the Western United States. The business they established was Fred Nackard Liquor Co. – later named Fred Nackard Wholesale Beverage Co. In 2017, this company merged with Northland Beverage to create Legacy Beverage, significantly increasing distribution in Northern and Eastern Arizona.
Starting a new business during those difficult times was not an easy venture. Just as with many people who pursue the American dream of owning their own business, sacrifices had to be made for the new company to begin. For example, instead of buying a new home, Fred and Monica chose to save money by living in the back of their new company’s warehouse --think of it as their “warehouse-house.” They traded in Monica’s car towards the purchase of their first delivery truck. Their fledgling enterprise truly became a family business with Fred doing the selling, Monica writing the invoices, and then Fred making the deliveries. Their hard work and determination paid off and the business was off the ground and they never looked back. Within four years, Fred wanted to expand and began looking for other business opportunities.
In 1935, the soft drink business was up-and-coming, and Fred acquired both a Nesbitt’s and Dr. Pepper franchise. Two years after acquiring these franchises, V.O. Robertson of the Pepsi-Cola Co., was touring the Western United States looking for franchise investors and approached Fred. Fred declined this first offer! He and his new business partner and general manager, his brother Phillip, felt that the timing wasn’t quite right.
World War II started and both Fred and Phillip were drafted. During the three years while the men were away, Monica and Phillip’s wife, Bessie kept the business running as best as they could. When he notified the Dr. Pepper Company that his wife, Monica, and his sister-in-law, Bessie, would be taking over operations, the Dr. Pepper Company refused, insisting instead that they would send a man to run the business. Fred did not agree to this and in 1943, he parted ways with Dr. Pepper when he signed the Pepsi franchise from boot camp in Fort Lewis, Washington. After spending two years as a drill sergeant while still stationed at Fort Lewis, Fred was honorably discharged from the army in 1945. He came home to Flagstaff and immediately began working to grow his fledgling company. He started producing his own product by adding the bottling lines for soft drinks. It was during this time of expansion that the Pepsi franchise opportunity surfaced again, and an agreement was signed on December 8, 1943 giving birth to the Nackard Bottling Company!
Today, Patrick Nackard is President of both Nackard Bottling Co. – as well as a full-line vending company he purchased in 1992, Hi-Line Refreshment Service, which services the majority of vending machines in northern Arizona. Together, these companies have approximately 200 employees. These companies continue to prosper under the leadership of Patrick Nackard and his son Palmer who serves as Vice President.
Nackard Bottling Co. continues to distribute throughout northern Arizona from branch locations in Flagstaff, Prescott, and Show Low. The company continues to distribute traditional Pepsi products including Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mtn. Dew, Gatorade, Lipton, and Starbucks, and Aquafina.
At the very root of the Nackard Companies’ success is the fact that Nackard operates by the principles held dear by Fred Nackard, who said: “We believe that you need to provide quality products, back them up with the best service possible, hire and train the right people, and always give back to those communities that support us.”
Evidence of these guiding principles is everywhere. Along with an impressive portfolio, both companies offer their widely-dispersed customers top-notch service. Using a “hometown” approach that allows both companies to really know their customers and their product needs, each account is called on at least once a week, with key accounts being contacted two or three times a week. The strategically-located warehouses enable timely deliveries and first-rate customer service, while company-wide and branch meetings ensure that sales professionals are adequately trained, and local issues are addressed.
As for giving back to the community, you need look no further than the long list of special event sponsorships and support to dozens of non-profit organizations throughout their territory. Perhaps the comments made during Nackard Bottling Company’s receipt of the 2002 Bottler of the Year Award says it best:
“Thanks to relentless salesmanship and an unwavering support of the community it serves, Nackard Bottling Company has built powerful, lasting relationships with customers throughout its franchise area. Pat’s deep-seeded local commitment, paired with his exceptional business leadership skills, make this company the best of Pepsi-Cola Bottling System’s best,” said then-President of Pepsi-Cola North America, Dawn Hudson. It was while receiving this award over 300 other bottling companies, that Patrick Nackard had the opportunity to express how he feels about the Nackard employees. This “great honor,” he said, was made possible by a “wonderful crew and management team who make it happen every day.”
With decades of success behind them, the Nackard Companies have every intention of continuing in Arizona’s beverage industry for decades to come – giving Nackard’s two grown children, Palmer and Monzie, the opportunity to join in the management of the company.
Early last year, Palmer played a significant role in securing a long-term partnership with Northern Arizona University. Nackard Bottling and Hi-Line Refreshment Service will be the exclusive non-alcoholic beverage and snack providers to the University through 2032. The agreement continues a relationship that Pepsi has had with NAU since the 1960’s. “We’re thrilled to extend our partnership with NAU for another 15 years,” said Nackard Companies Vice President, Palmer Nackard.
When Pepsi introduced the “This Is The Pepsi” ad campaign earlier this year, Nackard Bottling embraced the opportunity. “It’s exciting to see some of the iconic packaging re-introduced into the market,” said Palmer. “A lot of it played an important in shaping the pop culture throughout past generations, and when Pepsi Stuff was promoted for the first time over 20 years ago, it was a huge hit.” Pepsi Stuff, which is currently in the retail market, lets consumers earn points when they purchase Pepsi products, earning them rewards like limited edition Pepsi apparel, coolers, and more.
Patrick and his management team understand the need to adapt to a changing market. “The Nackard Companies continue to be “growth-minded companies,” said Patrick. He acknowledged that while the companies are focused on expanding existing business, times change, so acquisitions also could be part of the future. “We are evolving and building our product portfolio to consistently customize solutions for our customers, as their customers’ needs change. That requires us to be closer to our customers than ever before,” he said. The management team plans both annually and monthly with the customer in mind, focusing on the consumer and their retail experience. “Our diverse portfolio is a true competitive advantage, and it is our job to deliver the right marketing mix to maximize sales,” said Patrick. “We take the approach of getting the right brands, to the right consumers in the right accounts for the right occasions.” As of last year, the company added a “chilled” products group made up of Naked Juice, KeVita Probiotics, Kombucha, and Tropicana Essentials.
Patrick is very proud of all the employees who have helped make the Nackard Companies what they are today. Every role in our organization is important; it takes a well-rounded team to spell success,” said Patrick. “I also want to thank all of the grocers, retail partners, wholesale business partners, and customers who have helped make us successful.”
So, here we are 75 years later from when Fred and Monica took a chance on their own drive and ingenuity. You can still count on the Nackard Companies to stay true to the elements that were created right from the early days: service, quality brands, community involvement, and product/industry knowledge. Congratulations Nackard Companies! Here’s to another 75 years – and beyond!