(also referred to as "Coke") has a history almost as colorful as the drink itself. Coke is a carbonated, caramel-colored soft drink
and arguably the world's most popular cola.
The Coca-Cola Company's headquarters are located
in Atlanta, Georgia, where the beverage was first
concocted in 1886. Coca-Cola's inventor John
S. Pemberton was not a shrewd marketer
of his drink, and the ownership of Coca-Cola eventually
passed to Asa Candler, whose company remains
the producer of Coca-Cola today. It was Candler's successful
marketing, and continued by successors such
as Robert Woodruff, that established Coca-Cola as a
major soft drink in the global marketplace.
Originally intended to be sold only at soda
fountains, Coke was later distributed in bottles
whose readily identifiable shape has become a distinctive part
of Coca-Cola's branding. Major advertising
campaigns have established Coke slogans
such as "The Ideal Brain Tonic", "The Pause That Refreshes"
and "The Real Thing" as
part of popular culture.
According to legend, Coke's formula originally
contained an uncertain amount of cocaine,
though this was reduced over time (being reduced to 1/400th of a grain, or 0.16 milligrams,
per ounce of syrup by 1902), and eventually eliminated completely
around 1906 as health regulations strengthened their grip.
Even so, Coke has often been criticized
for its possible health effects,
leading to many urban myths. Additionally,
Coca-Cola's commercial success has
been periodically challenged, particularly
by its primary competitor Pepsi. The "Cola Wars" reached
their peak during the 1980s, which eventually resulted
in the highly touted "New Coke." Much to the company's chagrin, however, the new product was not well-accepted and the public's voice was heard causing Coca-Cola to revert back to "Coca-Cola Classic: Original Formula".
Occassionally, the Coca-Cola Company has introduced
other cola soft drinks under the Coke brand name.
The most well-known of these is Diet Coke, which
has become a major diet cola but there are also others,
such as and Cherry Coke.
There are also some other flavor soft drinks marketed by the
company but which remain unaffiliated with
Coca-Cola the drink. One such drink is Sprite.
Coca-Cola History Early Years
Columbus, Georgia Drug store owner Pemberton
invented a pop cocawine called Pemberton's
French Wine Cola in 1885. It was
originally intended to be a headache medicine, hence the comnpany's early slogan
"Specific For Headache". The story goes that Pemberton was inspired by the impressive success
of French Angelo Mariani's cocawine, Vin
The same year was when Atlanta, Georgia, and
Fulton County passed prohibition legislation.
Pemberton was encouraged to begin developing his non-alcoholic
version of the French Wine Coca. His bookkeeper
(and eventual head marketer), Frank Robinson,
coined the name "Coca-Cola", because it included
the stimulant cocaine and was flavored using
kola nuts, a source of caffeine. Pemberton's formula
called for five ounces (140 grams) of coca
leaf per gallon of syrup. The first sales
were made on May 7, 1886 in Jacob's Pharmacy, Atlanta,
GA. For the first 8 months, only an average of nine drinks
were sold each day. Pemberton ran the first
advertisement for the beverage on May 29
of that year in the Atlanta Journal.
Coca-Cola was initially promoted as a
patent medicine for five cents a glass.
Pemberton claimed his Coca-Cola cured a myriad
of diseases and ailments such as morphine addiction,
headaches, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, and even impotence.
It was in 1887 that Pemberton sold a portion of his fledgling company to Asa G. Candler, who incorporated
it in 1888 as The Coca Cola Corporation.
In the same year, Pemberton sold the rights
a second time to three more businessmen:
J.C. Mayfield, A.O. Murphey, and E.H. Bloodworth.
Meanwhile, Pemberton's son Charley began
selling his own version of the beverage.
Three versions of Coca-Cola — sold
by three separate businesses — were
on the market.
Coca-Cola History Under Candler & Woodruff
In an attempt to clarify the situation,
Pemberton declared Charley the owner of
the name Coca-Cola, but the other two manufacturers
could continue to use the formula. In the
summer of 1888, Candler sold his beverage
as Yum Yum and Koke. After both failed to
catch on, Candler set out to establish a
legal claim to Coca-Cola in late 1888, in
order to force his two competitors out of
the business. Candler apparently purchased
exclusive rights to the formula from Pemberton,
Margaret Dozier and Woolfolk Walker. However,
in 1914, Dozier came forward to claim her
signature on the bill of sale had been forged,
and subsequent analysis has indicated Pemberton's
signature most likely was a forgery as well.
Candler incorporated a second
company in 1892, The Coca-Cola Company — the
current corporation. Candler had
the earliest records of the company burned in 1910,
further obscuring its legal origins. In spite of this,
Candler began aggressively promoting the
product — the efficiency of this concerted
advertising campaign would not be realized
until years later. Candler pioneered several
promotional techniques, such as the distribution
of vouchers for free glasses of Coke,
as well as advertising on wall murals and soda fountain urns.
Coca-Cola was sold in bottles for the first time on March
12, 1894. The first bottling of Coke
took place in 1891 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, at the
Biedenharn Candy Company. Its proprietor
was Joseph A. Biedenharn. The original bottles
were six-ounce (170 gm) Hutchinson bottles
manufactured by Biedenharn and sealed with
a rubber gasket. Reportedly leaky, they
were soon replaced with "crown top"
bottles with straight sides, and sealed
with a metal cap; variants of this design
remain in use today. Originally, the shape
was introduced because of a marketing contest
to see who could introduce the best shape.
The design that won was in the shape of
a "cocoa" pod, because the creator
didn't know of the drink's origin. In 1915, the
distinctive "hobble-skirt" bottle
design now associated with Coca-Cola was
At first, Candler was unsure about
bottling Coca-Cola, but the two entrepreneurs
who proposed the idea were so persuasive
that Candler signed a contract giving them
control of the procedure. However, the loosely
termed contract proved to be problematic
for the company for decades to come. Legal
matters were not helped by the decision
of the bottlers to subcontract to other
companies — in effect, becoming parent
bottlers. This meant that Coke was
originally sold in a wide variety of bottles,
until the introduction of the iconic, standardized
"hobble-skirt" bottle in 1916.
After the advent of bottling, the company
began taking advertising even more seriously
than it had before by hiring William D'Arcy,
whose creations set the tone for Coca-Cola
ads that his successors would follow.
D'Arcy associated Coca-Cola with typical
everyday scenes of people going about their
daily business; his view was that
"Coca-Cola advertising should create
scenes that drew people in and made them
part of the pleasant interludes of everyday
life." Instead of targeting particular
segments of the populace, D'Arcy attempted to
appeal to as broad a range of people as
possible, with advertising copy such as
"All classes, ages and sexes drink
After Candler, the next executive to have
a major impact on Coke's future was Robert
Woodruff, who focused on expanding the scope
of the business to the rest of the United States.
A true workaholic, Woodruff would continue
to have a major influence on the business
long after his retirement, until his death
in the 1980s. Woodruff inherited leadership
of the company from his father, Ernest Woodruff,
who had successfully led a campaign to take
over the company from Candler in 1919. Woodruff
became President of The Coca-Cola Company
four years afterward. By emphasizing quality in
the production of Coke, he initiated
a "Quality Drink" campaign aimed
at properly training those who served Coke
at soda fountains. Woodruff was also
influential in establishing quality controls
for the bottled version of Coca-Cola, which
he thought held great promise. Looking
beyond the U.S., he set up a foreign
department of the company in 1926, and began
opening manufacturing plants in various
European and Central American countries.
Woodruff assumed responsibility
for designing Coke's foreign advertising
campaigns, affixing the company logo to
racing dog sleds in Canada and Spanish bullfighting
arenas. He also introduced some new methods of distributing Coca-Cola, such as the six-pack
carton, which made bulk purchases of Coca-Cola
In 1929, the beginning of the Great Depression
led to fears that sales might slump that year. However, an advertising campaign
spearheaded with the slogan "The Pause
That Refreshes" led per capita consumption
of Coca-Cola to actually double. That same
year, sales of bottled Coca-Cola overtook
those of Coca-Cola sold at soda fountains
for the first time. Throughout the Great
Depression, Coca-Cola advertising continued
to be upbeat, despite the bleak economic
outlook; a 1935 advertisement depicted a
man nonchalantly smiling on his way to work,
presenting an idealized view of American
life at the time. The proliferation
of Coca-Cola, and a newcomer to the soft
drink market, Pepsi, during this period
led to a decline in the sales of Moxie,
which had outsold Coca-Cola as recently
as 1920, and continued to rival Coca-Cola's
dominance of the American market. The decision
of its manufacturer to cut back on advertising
expenditure led to Moxie's eventual marginalization
in the United States.
The Great Depression, however, also saw
a setback for Coke with the advent of new competitor Pepsi; by offering twelve-ounce
bottles for the same price (five cents)
as Coca-Cola's six-ounce bottles, as well
as a musical jingle in its advertising campaign,
PepsiCo succeeded in becoming a challenger
to Coca-Cola's dominance of the American
market, with its profits doubling from 1936
Since that time, however, Coca-Cola has "held its own" and the future looks as bright as ever for the company with the familiar Coca-Cola script emblazened in many languages on the trademarked bottles with distribution reaching to the far corners of the globe...the very thought of which back in 1886 would probably have given Dr. Pemberton a headache for which, no doubt, he'd be dispensing himself a glass of his new tonic.