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G&J Pepsi: Walking on The Wilds Side

When it comes to being a committed community partner, Cincinnati-based G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company walks the walk.

The company, the biggest family-owned and operated Pepsi bottler in the U.S., places a strong emphasis on supporting local communities. For instance, look around the capital city and you’ll see evidence of Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Columbus’ generosity at neighborhood organizations like Saint Stephen’s Community House and widely-recognized events, such as Red, White, and Boom.

But you might be surprised to learn of one of the places G&J is making a significant impact.

Several years ago, G&J officials were approached by Jack Hanna, director emeritus, Columbus Zoo, and Aquarium, with a special request. Hanna asked G&J to help support The Wilds, a wildlife conservation center in Cumberland, Ohio that features animals from all over the world living in natural, open-range habitat, including 27 rare and endangered species. The Wilds, which is owned by the zoo, had been struggling financially since losing state funding that represented a sizeable portion of its operating budget.

It would prove to be a perfect and productive match. G&J’s partnership with The Wilds dates back to its opening in 1994, and the Johnson Visitor Center at The Wilds is named for the Johnson Family, previous owners of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Zanesville. As an added benefit, The Wilds’ mission of conservation struck a chord with company officials. They were eager to take their partnership to a higher level.

What makes this partnership special is that it extends beyond financial support. The G&J team members share their gifts of time and creative talent to help The Wilds bolster its marketing efforts, generate greater awareness, drive attendance and revenues, and ultimately continue its mission to advance conservation through science, education and personal experience. It’s a cause the G&J Pepsi team is passionate about.

Three key, inventive initiatives came to life through the partnership—and together they have helped increase The Wilds’ attendance by more than 60 percent since 2011.

“Pepsi’s partnership with The Wilds has been a blessing and has helped elevate stagnated attendance and revenue numbers to a point that the facility can now stand on its own feet,” said Pete Fingerhut, vice president of marketing and sales, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “If it was not for Pepsi, we would not be in the position we are in now. The Wilds’ awareness is at an all-time high. At the beginning of the relationship, we explained our issues and problems, and they helped turn it around. They not only listen; they produce results.”

Products of the partnership include:


Since 2012, WildZfest has drawn families to The Wilds for a day of special activities. The 2016 event took place in May and included animal presentations, zoo characters, a meet and greet with Dora the Explorer, carnival games, and more.

The goal is to attract visitors who might not otherwise make the trek to Cumberland and introduce them to the The Wilds. This event was conceived by G&J’s Nick Popa, and support from the company allows The Wilds to offer free admission for WildZfest.


Another effort sponsored by G&J brings The Wilds directly to you. Each year since 2012, WBNS-10TV has presented an hour-long special that gives viewers an inside look at The Wilds. G&J is the show’s production sponsor.

This year, “A Look At The Wilds” aired on June 9 and again on July 16 with hosts Jeff Hogan and Angela An. The show takes viewers on guided Safari Transports, highlighting the area’s features and amenities. You can explore The Wilds’ open-range animal areas, with animals roaming in large, natural settings–getting an up close and personal look at the animals, which include cheetahs, giraffes, rhinos and takin. Tom Stalf, the chief executive officer of The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds, introduces many baby animals born over the winter, too.

The special also highlights things to do at The Wilds, such as fishing, ziplining, excursions and education camps for kids and the entire family.

If you missed the special on TV, watch it on-demand now.


G&J elevates The Wilds’ visibility by leveraging in-product marketing and extensive advertising buys.

This summer you can pick up a 24-pack of Diet Pepsi for up to $100 OFF at The Wilds. Coupons include discounted prices for Sunset Safaris, Open Air Safaris, Zipline Safaris, Wildside Tours and more. The cube insert makes these unforgettable experiences more affordable, so more families can experience “Out of Africa” without going out of Ohio.

In addition, G&J features The Wilds on truck backs and tags TV spots with information on The Wilds and its programming. For example, when you see one of the company’s 30-second spots, it may include seven seconds for The Wilds.

You can catch G&J’s commercials on both network TV and cable. This gets The Wilds mass exposure without affecting its budget.


The innovative marketing support G&J provides to The Wilds creates a measurable, lasting impact.

But G&J is not the only company making a difference. Ohio’s beverage companies are generous contributors to charitable organizations. Together, members of the OSDA and their employees contribute $61 million to causes across the state.

Follow G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers Inc.: Pepsi In The 614 on Facebook

Follow The Wilds: Facebook | Twitter

This is the first in a new OSDA blog series, Telling Our Story. OSDA member companies manufacture and distribute some of the most recognizable consumer products in the world. We will share “behind the scenes” news and insight into how these amazing companies were established and, more importantly, how they continue to employ nearly 10,000 Ohioans in a fast-paced, ever-changing world. Are you a member with a story to tell? Click here.



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