5 Apr
Posted in: Brands
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History of Coca Cola

Millions of people each day all around the world enjoy soft drinks such as Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola has been widely successful both in America and the world. While the story of Coca Cola starts in Atlanta Georgia more than 100 years ago, its origins and original recipe as an elixir are quite different than they are today. However, with plenty of advertising and a great business model, Coca-Cola has spread across the globe and still continues to be one of the most well known brands ever to be developed. Here is the history of Coca Cola.

The Beginning

Coca-Cola was first created in 1885 at Columbus, Georgia in a three legged kettle by Dr. John Pemberton. It was originally a type of cocaine which was popular in Europe at the time. The original drink was non alcoholic, carbonated and included cocaine and caffeine from the Kola nut. It was originally sold in Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia on May 8, 1886. Originally, an elixir, it was believed to actually cure many diseases which included morphine addiction, impotence, headache, dyspepsia an others.

Old Coca Cola Ad

The name Coca-Cola was the idea of Frank Robinson, the book keeper of Dr. Pemberton. In fact, the famous script Coca-Cola logo was again created by Frank Robinson, whom since was a book keeper had excellent penmanship. In its first year, Coca-Cola was not exactly a success. In fact, only about 9 servings per day were sold in the pharmacy in its first year, Coke ( a nickname for Coca-Cola) didn’t even cover the $70 of expenses that it took to create the product. However, in the coming years, business would boom.

In 1887, another pharmacist Asa Candler bought the formula from John Pemberton. This cost was $2,300, and within ten years, the soda became one of the most popular fountain drinks. To realize this goal, Asa Candler aggressively marketed the product and with Pemberton and Candler both running the Coca-Cola Company, syrup sales of the drink increased over 4,000 percent from 1890 to 1900.

It should be noted that the first few years, three versions of the soft drink were sold by three different companies. However, after some legal wrangling, in-fighting, buy outs and forgery, a second Coca-Cola company was created in 1892, this is the Coca-Cola Company that still stands today.

Coca-Cola Logo

The Success of Coca-Cola

Two major factors that have made Coca-Cola the huge, successful company it is today is both advertising and a good business plan. In the late 1800’s and the first part of the 20th century, Coca-Cola was mainly sold at the soda fountain. Places like pharmacies and ice cream shop would also sell soda. They would buy syrup and add carbonated water. The business plan was simple, Coca-Cola would create the syrup and then distribute it to companies- independent bottling companies that then either sold the syrup to bottled Coke across the country.

As soda fountains found in drug stores and ice cream parlors fell out of fashion to fast food restaurants and on the road convenience stores, bottling became a larger part of their business model. In fact, while the first bottled Coca-Cola was available in 1894, fountain sodas continued to be successful until the 1960’s. The first canned Coca-Cola was first sold in 1955.

Besides being able to spread Coca-Cola throughout the country quickly, conveniently and cost effective using bottling companies, another asset of the drink was its continually aggressive advertising campaigns. During the first half of the 20th century, Coca-Cola was found easily in many newspapers on wall murals and on the many billboards that dotted the landscape near roads. In addition, Coca-Cola also utilized radio as well. Many consider Coca-Cola as having a huge influence on Americana and even promoting the now iconic image of Santa Clause as being an old man in a red suit with a white beard.

Today, Coca-Cola is still one of the largest advertisers in the world. The Coca-Cola Company not only advertises in print, radio, television, film and on the web, but also advertisers utilizing sporting events and other promotional events. During the 1970’s one of the radio spots produced even produced a hit song ” I like to teach the world to sing”.

The History of the Coca-Cola Bottle

Besides the drink itself becoming popular, the bottle has also become an iconic image of the brand. The bottle that is infamous is known as the contour design and was actually created in 1915, by glass bottle designer Earl R. Dean of the Root Glass Company. The Coca-Cola Company decided to have a competition on who can create the best bottle design. They wanted a design that could be easily recognizable, even in the dark or if broken. Since the two main ingredients were the kola nut and cocoa leaf, the Root Glass Company wanted to create a design based on these two plants, however, there was no images found in the nearby library, so instead Earl R. Dean was inspired by another image he found- one based on the cocoa pod.

All Coca Cola Bottles

Other Coca-Cola Products

While Coca-Cola has had tremendous success and now can be found in more than 200 countries, there have been several products that Coca-Cola has released, some successful and others miserable failures. Here are a couple of them.

Diet Coke

Diet Coke was introduced in 1982. While the product uses the Coca-Cola trademark, it should be noted that it is a totally new reformulation of the Coke product. Geared towards diet conscious drinkers, Diet Coke became successful and took over the once popular diet cola brand TAB- also created by Coke. Over the years, Diet Coke has been sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharine, NutraSweet and splenda. Diet coke offers those looking to cut their caloric intake and those that want a cola drink, but need to reduce their sugar intake (diabetics). Today, Diet coke has about 1.5 calories compared to about 142 calories in a typical 330 ml bottle of Coca-Cola.

New Coke

While Diet Coke was a success from the beginning, New Coke turned out to be a historic flop. New Coke was introduced in 1985 as a reformulation of the old product. While the taste was sweeter and more like Pepsi- Coca-Cola’s main competitor, market research has showed that the taste of New Coke was proffered over Coke and Pepsi. However, when New Coke was rolled out, it turned into a public relations nightmare with many loyal Coke drinkers upset that their beloved cola drink was reformulated. While sales were strong- possibly due to curiosity, after three months, the Coca-Cola Company reverted back to the old formula. New Coke continued to be sold and the old formula was renamed Coca-Cola Classic.


  • How can I get my hands on these
    Can I order them

  • Hi there,

    On New Coke, I recently heard that it was a marketing strategy which was meant to flop – so intentional on the Coca-Cola company. The reason for this was that the company need to change the formula but was worried that people would revolt – the change was to go from Cane Sugar to Beet Sugar – a minor change it would seem in taste but enough to be noticed if it was overnight. Now, the company decided if they introduced a product that tasted awful no one would pick up on the cane sugar v beet sugar when the “original product” was reintroduced.

    I don’t know how much truth there is to this side story, but it did come from a Coca-Cola marketing person from this era. You be the judge. 😉

    Cool article and groovy photo of the bottles!

So, what do you think?