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Coca-Cola History

Coca-Cola (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 Mariani.

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 introduced.

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 Coca-Cola."

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 substantially easier.

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 to 1938.

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.

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