A Look at Coca Cola
TR Robertson –Interestingly, the three major soda brands, at least the most popular and the ones that advertise the most, were all invented around the same time period and all invented in the southern part of the United States. From 1880-1900, Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola and Dr. Pepper were slowly being developed and marketed as cures for a variety of ailments. This medicinal campaign would disappear, but the flavor and uniqueness of the drinks would grow and grow in popularity that stretches around the world today.
In Part 1 we will take a look at how Coca Cola began and grew to one of the most successful businesses known around the world. Coca Cola was invented in 1886 by former Confederate Colonel John Stith Pemberton. Pemberton was wounded in the Civil War and became addicted to morphine for a period of time. He wanted to develop a medicine that could possibly take the place of morphine. In his Eagle Drug and Chemical House, in Columbus, Georgia, his experiments would lead to the development of a drink he would advertise and sell for .05 cents a glass. Naming the drink Coca Cola, after the coca leaves extract and kola nuts (for the caffeine), the drink would be advertised as a temperance drink and patented as a medicine.
Pemberton first passed out coupons for a free drink of Coca Cola to gain interest in the drink. In a contest run in Philadelphia in 1885, a drink appeared called Kola Coca. Coca Cola would buy the rights to this drink in 1953. Eventually, Coca Cola would be sold at Jacob’s Pharmacy, a Jewish business, for .05 cents. It slowly grew in popularity as a carbonated beverage sold at the soda fountain at the Pharmacy. Pemberton claimed the non-alcoholic drink cured indigestion, nerve disorders, headaches, and impotence. The first ad for the drink would appear in the “Atlanta Journal” in 1886 and the first outdoor wall advertisement appeared in Cartersville, Georgia, in 1884. The name and script design was designed by Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Mason Robinson, in 1885. One side note, Coca Cola would become popular as a mixer drink for alcoholic drinks like rum and bourbon, especially during the Prohibition era. The trace amounts of cocaine would be removed by 1900. The first coke bottles were produced in 1915, designed in a contour bottle, said to look like a coca bean, by Earl R. Dean and Harold Hirsch. The bottling occurred Vicksburg, Mississippi.
In the early stages of the development of Coca Cola, Pemberton would partner with four Atlanta business men, all done with no signed documents. One gentleman, Asa Griggs Chandler, in 1887, said he had a part in this partnership. As John Pemberton began to pull further and further away from the partnership, one thing he was adamant about was that his son, Charley, had sole ownership of the name Coca Cola. He said the formula could be used by the other partners. The current formula for Coca Cola is a trade secret and currently held in a huge vault in the World of Coca Cola in Atlanta. By 1888, Charley was a major shareholder in the business. Slowly, Asa Chandler was able to purchase a series of shares in the company. By 1888 he had acquired ½ of the interest in the shares. In 1892, Asa had incorporated the Coca Cola Company. Charley still held the rights to the name, so Asa had to call the drink Yum Yum & Kola.
Charley had, unfortunately, become an alcoholic and an opium addict. John Pemberton died on August 16, 1888. Asa Chandler has gained full control of Coca Cola by August 30, 1888. Charley was found unconscious in June of 1894 and died on June 23, 1894. Asa was involved in a series of legal battles about the Coca Cola Company. In 1914 Margaret Dozier claimed she was a co-owner of the original Coca Cola Company and claimed her signature on the sale of the company was forged as well as John Pemberton’s signature was forged. Ownership of the Coca Cola Company was in serious legal disputes. On September 12, 1919, the Coca Cola Company was purchased by a group of investors for the Ernest Woodruff Trust Company for $25 million and reincorporated. The public was offered 500,000 shares to purchase at $40 a share.
In 1986, the Coca Cola Company merged with two bottling companies, JTL Corporation and BCI Holding Company to form Coca Cola Enterprises Inc. In 1991, Coca Cola merged with the Johnston Coca Cola Bottling Group Inc. Along the way, the Coca Cola Company would produce the concentrate and sell this to licensed Coca Cola bottlers. The bottlers hold exclusive territory contracts and produce the cans and bottles for the product, adding the filtered water and sweetness to the concentrate.
Along the way, as the Coca Cola Company grew and expanded, acquiring a number of acquisitions, some fascinating bits and pieces of trivia has been collected about the company. Here is a small sampling about this incredibly successful company.
- Coca Cola produces 110 billion plastic bottles a year for its product
- 1.7 billion Coca Cola products are drunk each day
- A typical 12 fluid ounce bottle contains 38 grams of sugar.
- Coca Cola makes so many different beverages, if you drank one per day it would take you 9 years to try them all.
- The Coca Cola brand is worth $74 billion.
- The average person consumes a coke product every 4 days.
- Coca Cola is sold in over 200 countries in the world.
- The Coca Cola brand is said to be the most recognized brand in the world.
- On April 23, 1985, New Coke was introduced and the backlash against this flavor led to the Coca Cola Classic introduced July 10, 1985.
- New Coke did not disappear until 2002.
- Coca Cola was sent overseas for WW II troops in pull top cans. They had to stop this because aluminum was rationed.
- Coke in cans would be offered again to the general public in 1960.
- At the end of WW II, Russians were given a clear coke product to resemble vodka. Regular coke would be offered in 1985
- The original coke product had a green color to it.
- In 2006, 2 Coca Cola employees were caught, by the FBI, trying to sell trade secrets to Pepsi. They received 8 year prison terms.
- An Atlanta historian, Charles Salter, is said to have found Coke’s ingredients in a pile of documents once belonging to John Pemberton. Coke has said this was an old recipe and no longer used.
- McDonald’s is said to offer the best tasting coke as it is shipped in stainless steel containers.
- Coca Cola was the official sponsor of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
- The Coca Cola Company has 500 brands and offers 3,500 beverages.
- Coke was the first soda to be drunk on the Moon, 1985, is a specially designed space can.
- Coke can be used to remove grease stains and neutralize jelly fish stings.
- The ingredients we know about Coke include carbonated water, sugar, extracts from Kola nuts for caffeine, Phosphoric acid, Carmel color, and natural flavorings which are a trade secret. A cocaine free coca leaf extract that is federally approved is used.
- There have been a number of Coca Cola flavors offered such as Caffeine Free, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke, Vanilla Coke, Raspberry Coke, Lemon-Lime Coke, Black Cherry Vanilla Coke and much, much more.
So there you have it. Some information about one of the most popular sodas on the market and a bit of trivia you may not have known. The story of Pepsi Cola will appear in the next article.