Coca-cola the story behind the bottle


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The product that has given the world its best-known taste was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886. Dr. John Stith Pemberton, a local pharmacist, produced the syrup for Coca-Cola®, and carried a jug of the new product down the street to Jacobs' Pharmacy, where it was sampled, pronounced "excellent" and placed on sale for five cents a glass as a soda fountain drink. Carbonated water was teamed with the new syrup to produce a drink that was at once "Delicious and Refreshing," a theme that continues to echo today wherever Coca-Cola is enjoyed.

Thinking that "the two Cs would look well in advertising," Dr. Pemberton's partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, suggested the name and penned the now famous trademark "Coca-Cola" in his unique script. The first newspaper ad for Coca-Cola soon appeared in The Atlanta Journal, inviting thirsty citizens to try "the new and popular soda fountain drink." Hand-painted oilcloth signs reading "Coca-Cola" appeared on store awnings, with the suggestion "Drink" added to inform passersby that the new beverage was for soda fountain refreshment. During the first year, sales averaged a modest nine drinks per day.

Dr. Pemberton never realized the potential of the beverage he created. He gradually sold portions of his business to various partners and, just prior to his death in 1888, sold his remaining interest in Coca-Cola to Asa G. Candler. An Atlantan with great business acumen, Mr. Candler proceeded to buy additional rights and acquire complete control.

Learn the rest of the history by selecting another chapter from the drop-down menu on the right.


On May 1, 1889, Asa Candler published a full-page advertisement in The Atlanta Journal, proclaiming his wholesale and retail drug business as "sole proprietors of Coca-Cola ... Delicious. Refreshing. Exhilarating. Invigorating." Sole ownership, which Mr. Candler did not actually achieve until 1891, cost a total of $2,300.

By 1892, Mr. Candler's flair for merchandising had boosted sales of Coca-Cola syrup nearly tenfold. He soon liquidated his pharmaceutical business and focused his full attention on the soft drink. With his brother, John S. Candler, John Pemberton's former partner Frank Robinson and two other associates, Mr. Candler formed a Georgia corporation named The Coca-Cola Company. Initial capitalization was $100,000.

The trademark "Coca-Cola," used in the marketplace since 1886, was registered in the United States Patent Office on January 31, 1893. (Registration has been renewed periodically.) That same year the first dividend was paid; at $20 per share, it amounted to 20 percent of the book value of a share of stock.

A firm believer in advertising, Mr. Candler expanded on Dr. Pemberton's marketing efforts, distributing thousands of coupons for a complimentary glass of Coca-Cola. He promoted the product incessantly, distributing souvenir fans, calendars, clocks, urns and countless novelties, all depicting the trademark.

The business continued to grow, and in 1894, the first syrup manufacturing plant outside Atlanta was opened in Dallas, Texas. Others were opened in Chicago, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California, the following year.

In 1895, three years after The Coca-Cola Company's incorporation, Mr. Candler announced in his annual report to shareholders that "Coca-Cola is now drunk in every state and territory in the United States."

As demand for Coca-Cola increased, the Company quickly outgrew its facilities. A new building erected in 1898 was the first headquarters building devoted exclusively to the production of syrup and the management of the business. Mr. Candler hailed the new, three-story structure as "sufficient for all our needs for all time to come." It was inadequate in just over a decade.

Bottling Begins

While Mr. Candler's efforts focused on boosting soda fountain sales, another concept was being developed that would spread the enjoyment of Coca-Cola worldwide.

In 1894, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Joseph A. Biedenharn was so impressed by the growing demand for Coca-Cola at his soda fountain that he installed bottling machinery in the rear of his store and began to sell cases of Coca-Cola to farms and lumber camps up and down the Mississippi River. He was the first bottler of Coca-Cola.

Large-scale bottling was made possible in 1899, when Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead of Chattanooga, Tennessee, secured from Mr. Candler the exclusive rights to bottle and sell Coca-Cola in practically the entire United States. With contract in hand, they joined another Chattanoogan, John T. Lupton, and began to develop what is today the worldwide Coca-Cola bottling system.

The first bottling plant under the new contract was opened in Chattanooga in 1899, the second in Atlanta the following year. By then, realizing they could not raise enough capital to build bottling operations nationwide, Messrs. Thomas, Whitehead and Lupton decided to seek outside capital. They contracted with competent individuals to establish Coca-Cola bottling operations within certain defined geographic areas.

Over the next 20 years, the number of plants grew from two to more than 1,000 -- 95 percent of them locally owned and operated. As the business grew, the development of high-speed bottling machinery and increasingly efficient transportation enabled bottlers to serve more customers with more products. Today, the Coca-Cola bottling system is one of the largest, most widespread production and distribution networks in the world.

Protecting a Valuable Name

The bottlers of Coca-Cola in the early 1900s had their share of challenges. Probably the most persistent and serious was protecting the product and the package from imitation. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the business world it can mean the death of a good name.

Early advertising warned of the perils of popularity. "Demand the genuine" and "Accept no substitutes" reminded consumers to settle for nothing less than the real thing.

The never-ending battle against substitution was the major force behind the evolution of the distinctive hobble-skirt bottle. A variety of straight-sided containers was used through 1915, but as soft-drink competition intensified, so did imitation. Coca-Cola deserved a distinctive package, and in 1916, the bottlers approved the unique contour bottle designed by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana.

The now-familiar shape was granted registration as a trademark by the U.S. Patent Office in 1977, an honor accorded only a handful of other packages. The bottle thus joined the trademarks "Coca-Cola," registered in 1893, and "Coke®," registered in 1945.

In 1919, a group of investors headed by Ernest Woodruff and W. C. Bradley purchased The Coca-Cola Company for $25 million. The business was reincorporated as a Delaware corporation, and 500,000 shares of its common stock were sold publicly for $40 per share.

Four years later, Robert Winship Woodruff, Ernest Woodruff's son, was elected president of the Company, beginning more than six decades of active leadership in the business. Before joining the soft-drink firm, the 33-year-old Georgian had risen from truck salesman to vice president and general manager of White Motor Company.

The new president put uncommon emphasis on product quality. Mr. Woodruff established a "Quality Drink" campaign using a staff of highly trained servicepeople to encourage and assist fountain outlets in aggressively selling and correctly serving Coca-Cola. And with the assistance of leading bottlers, his management established quality standards for every phase of the bottling operation. Mr. Woodruff saw vast potential for the bottle business, so advertising and marketing support was substantially increased. By the end of 1928, Coca-Cola sales in bottles had for the first time exceeded fountain sales.

Robert Woodruff's leadership through the years took the Coca-Cola business to unrivaled heights of commercial success. Merchandising concepts accepted as commonplace today were considered revolutionary when Mr. Woodruff introduced them. The Company pioneered the innovative six-bottle carton in the early 1920s, for example, making it easier for the consumer to take Coca-Cola home. The simple cardboard carton, described as "a home package with a handle of invitation," became one of the industry's most powerful merchandising tools.

In 1929, the carton was joined by another revolutionary advance, the metal, open-top cooler, which made it possible for Coca-Cola to be served ice-cold in retail outlets. The cooler later was improved through mechanical refrigeration and automatic coin control. Factories, offices and many other institutions thus became outlets for on-the-spot refreshment.

Much like the trademarked bottle, a distinctive fountain glass, adopted as standard in 1929, helped advertise Coca-Cola. Still used at many soda fountains, these glasses are visible proof of the timeless popularity of Coca-Cola.

The 1933 Chicago World's Fair marked the introduction of automatic fountain dispensers, in which syrup and carbonated water were mixed as the drink was poured. Soda fountain operators had dispensed Coca-Cola manually since its creation in 1886, and visitors to the fair were amazed to see the attendant pour a drink simply by pulling a handle. By 1937, the automatic dispenser had become an important feature of the fountain and similar "post-mix" outlets. Today, modern fountain technology continues to dispense Company products faster and better than ever before.

Refreshment Knows No Boundaries

Perhaps Mr. Woodruff's greatest contribution was his vision of Coca-Cola as an international product. Working with talented associates, he established the global momentum that eventually carried Coca-Cola to every corner of the world.

In the first two decades of the 20th Century, the international growth of Coca-Cola had been rather haphazard. It began in 1900, when Charles Howard Candler, eldest son of Asa Candler, took a jug of syrup with him on vacation to England. A modest order for five gallons of syrup was mailed back to Atlanta.

The same year, Coca-Cola traveled to Cuba and Puerto Rico, and it wasn't long before the international distribution of syrup began. Through the early 1900s, bottling operations were built in Cuba, Panama, Canada, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. In 1920, a bottling company began operating in France as the first bottler of Coca-Cola on the European continent.

In 1926, Mr. Woodruff committed the Company to organized international expansion by establishing the Foreign Department, which in 1930 became a subsidiary known as The Coca-Cola Export Corporation. By that time, the number of countries with bottling operations had almost quadrupled, and the Company had initiated a partnership with the Olympic Games that transcended cultural boundaries.

Coca-Cola and the Olympic Games began their association in the summer of 1928, when an American freighter arrived in Amsterdam carrying the United States Olympic team and 1,000 cases of Coca-Cola. Forty thousand spectators filled the stadium to witness two firsts: the first lighting of the Olympic flame and the first sale of Coke at an Olympiad. Dressed in caps and coats bearing the Coca-Cola trademark, vendors satisfied the fans' thirst, while outside the stadium, refreshment stands, cafes, restaurants and small shops called "winkles" served Coke in bottles and from soda fountains.

Mr. Woodruff's vision of the international potential of Coca-Cola is still being implemented and refined by the Company, its bottlers and subsidiaries, building the Coca-Cola business into an unparalleled global system for providing a simple moment of pleasure.


At the outbreak of World War II, Coca-Cola was bottled in 44 countries, including those on both sides of the conflict. But far from devastating the business, the war simply presented a new set of challenges and opportunities for the entire Coca-Cola system.

The entry of the United States into the war brought an order from Robert Woodruff in 1941 "to see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5 cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the Company."

This effort to supply the armed forces with Coke was being launched when an urgent cablegram arrived from General Dwight Eisenhower's Allied Headquarters in North Africa. Dated June 29, 1943, it requested shipment of materials and equipment for 10 bottling plants. Prefaced by the directive that the shipments were not to replace other military cargo, the cablegram also requested shipment of 3 million filled bottles of Coca-Cola, along with supplies for producing the same quantity twice monthly.

Within six months, a Company engineer had flown to Algiers and opened the first plant, the forerunner of 64 bottling plants shipped abroad during World War II. The plants were set up as close as possible to combat areas in Europe and the Pacific. More than 5 billion bottles of Coke were consumed by military service personnel during the war, in addition to countless servings through dispensers and mobile, self-contained units in battle areas.

But the presence of Coca-Cola did more than just lift the morale of the troops. In many areas, it gave local people their first taste of Coca-Cola - a taste they obviously enjoyed. And when peace returned, the Coca-Cola system was poised for unprecedented worldwide growth. From the mid-1940s until 1960, the number of countries with bottling operations nearly doubled. As the world emerged from a time of conflict, Coca-Cola emerged as a worldwide symbol of friendship and refreshment.


From the late 1940s to the 1970s, the United States, like most of the world, changed at an unprecedented pace. The Coca-Cola Company also experienced its most dramatic changes in marketing and merchandising since the advent of bottling in the late 1890s. World War II had recast the world, and the Company faced a new, more complex global marketplace.

Until the mid-1950s, the world of Coca-Cola was defined by a 6 ½-ounce hobble-skirt bottle or bell-shaped fountain glass. But as consumers demanded a wider variety of choices, the Company responded with innovative packaging, new technology and new products.

In 1955, the Company introduced the 10-, 12- and 26-ounce king-size and family-size bottles, which were immediately successful. Metal cans, first developed for armed forces overseas, were available on U.S. market shelves by 1960. Then, following years of research into plastic soft-drink bottles, the Company introduced PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) packaging in 1977 in the 2-liter size.

The Company also introduced new soft drinks to satisfy a widening spectrum of tastes. Born in Germany, Fanta® was introduced in the United States in 1960; today the Fanta family of flavored soft drinks has become one of the best-selling brands in the world. Sprite®, a lemon-lime drink, followed in 1961, and in 1963 the Company introduced TAB®, its first low-calorie beverage.

Change during the 1960s entailed more than new soft drinks. In 1960 the Minute Maid Corporation merged with the Company, adding frozen citrus juice concentrates and ades under the trademarks Minute Maid® and Hi-C® to the Company's array of beverages.


Through the years, jingles and slogans have set the pace for Coca-Cola advertising. One of the world's most famous advertising slogans, "The Pause That Refreshes," first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1929. It was supported by "It's the Refreshing Thing to do" in 1936 and 1944's "Global High Sign." The 1950s produced "Sign of Good Taste," "Be Really Refreshed" and "Go Better Refreshed."

Many more memorable slogans followed, including "Things Go Better with Coke" in 1963. "It's the Real Thing," first used in 1942, was revived in 1969 to support a new, tremendously successful merchandising stance for Coca-Cola.

Fine illustrations by top artists including Norman Rockwell were featured in colorful ads that projected the product's image in leading magazines. Noted artist Haddon Sundblom's popular Santa Claus "portraits," which began in the 1930s, continued as holiday ads until the early 1960s.

Since the mid-1920s, radio had been the most important communication medium for Coca-Cola. In the 1960s, the popular "Things Go Better with Coke" jingle became a hit radio spot, using successful groups sang the jingle in their own musical styles.

The Company's advertising changed along with the world, reaching new groups of consumers through new channels, most notably television. On Thanksgiving Day 1950, Edgar Bergen and his sidekick, Charlie McCarthy, appeared on the first live television network show sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company. As the medium evolved from program sponsorship to commercials that ran during different shows, many famous celebrities advertised Coca-Cola.

Through the years, advertising for Coca-Cola has changed in many ways, but the message, like the trademark, has remained the same.


Entering the last quarter of the 20th century, the deep emotional bond between Coca-Cola and its consumers grew even more powerful and more global. In 1971, young people from around the world gathered on a hilltop in Italy to sing "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke," a counterpoint to turbulent times. This was also a glimpse into the Company's future: an expanding global presence and an even closer attachment to the world's most cherished trademark.

The power and prestige of Coca-Cola were exemplified in 1988, when three independent worldwide surveys conducted by Landor & Associates confirmed Coca-Cola as the best-known, most-admired trademark in the world.

Perhaps a more human assessment of consumers' loyalty to Coca-Cola had come in 1985. The Company startled the American public by announcing a new taste for Coke, the first change in the secret formula since Coca-Cola was created in 1886. The new taste was overwhelmingly preferred in taste tests, but all the testing and research could not measure the emotional attachment Americans had for the original formula. That original taste had become more than just a soft drink, and consumers' deep feelings, memories and loyalties to it came alive. The Company listened to its consumers and quickly responded by returning the original formula to the market as Coca-Cola classic®.

The Company's global strategy during the 1980s continued to bring consumers on every continent refreshing products for every occasion and every lifestyle. In 1982, soft-drink history was made with the introduction of Diet Coke®, the first extension of the trademarks Coca-Cola and Coke, and the most successful new soft drink since Coca-Cola itself. Within two years, Diet Coke had become the top low-calorie soft drink in the world.

Advertising during the 1970s and 1980s continued a long tradition that presented Coca-Cola as one of life's simple pleasures,distinctive and acceptable anywhere. In 1976, the "Coke Adds Life" campaign was introduced, laying the foundation for the 1979 introduction of "Have a Coke and a Smile," a campaign of heart-warming emotion best captured by the famous television commercial featuring Pittsburgh Steelers tackle "Mean" Joe Greene.

In early 1982, the theme "Coke Is It!" was launched around the world to reflect the resurgent, positive spirit of the 1980s and to reaffirm the leadership of Coca-Cola. "Can't Beat the Feeling" wrapped up the 1980s, while "Can't Beat the Real Thing" led the way into the 1990s, and the innovative "Always Coca-Cola" campaign debuted in 1993, followed by "Coca-Cola … Real" in 2003 and "The Coke Side of Life" in 2006.

From Small Beginnings

The Coca-Cola Company began building its global network in the 1920s. Now operating in more than 200 countries and producing nearly 450 brands, the Coca-Cola system has successfully applied a simple formula on a global scale: provide a moment of refreshment for a very small amount of money -- a billion times a day.

The Coca-Cola Company and its network of bottlers comprise the most sophisticated and pervasive production and distribution system in the world. More than anything, that system is dedicated to people working long and hard to sell Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta and other Company products.

From Boston to Beijing, from Montreal to Moscow, Coca-Cola, more than any other consumer product, has brought pleasure to thirsty consumers around the globe. For more than 120 years, Coca-Cola has created a special moment of pleasure for hundreds of millions of people every day.

The history of Coca-Cola is a story of special moments. Moments that originated with Dr. Pemberton in Atlanta and have been multiplied billions of times around the world. Moments made familiar and universal by Mr. Candlers's unique advertising and Mr. Woodruff's vision to put Coca-Cola "within an arm's reach of desire." Moments that today make Coca-Cola the most ubiquitous consumer product in the world. Each day, Coca-Cola strengthens its position as the world's soft drink. Every day, people experience a delicious, refreshing moment that only Coca-Cola can bring them. Through more than a century of change, Coca-Cola remains a timeless symbol of quality refreshment.


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