Coca cola is one of the most iconic products in the world, and it all began when a pharmacist decided to experiment with curiosity.
Atlanta 1886; John Pemberton was isnpired by simple curiosity to concot a fragrant, caramel coloured liquid and carried to the pharmacy a few doors down, to mix it with carbonated water. The result was a sweet, fizzy liquid which became popular really fast. Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, named the mixture "coca cola" and his distinctive script adorns every bottle, can and merchandise to this day.
In the first year, Pemberton sold just nine glasses of Coca-Cola a day. A century later, The Coca-Cola Company has produced more than ten billion gallons of syrup. Over the course of three years, between 1888-1891, Atlanta businessman Asa Griggs Candler secured rights to the business for a total of about $2,300 (about £1,500). Candler would becomeCoca-Cola’s first president and the first to bring real vision to the business and the brand.
Candler knew there were thirsty people out there, and he found brilliant and innovative ways to introduce them to this exciting new refreshment. He gave away coupons for complimentary first tastes of Coca-Cola and outfitted distributing pharmacists with clocks, urns, calendars and apothecary scales bearing the Coca-Cola branding. People saw Coca-Cola everywhere, and the aggressive promotion worked. By 1895, Candler had built syrup plants in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Inevitably, the drink’s popularity led to a demand for it to be enjoyed in new ways. In 1894, a Mississippi businessman named Joseph Biedenharn became the first to put Coca-Cola in bottles. He sent 12 of them to Candler who responded without enthusiasm. Despite being a brilliant and innovative businessman, he didn’t realise then that the future of Coca-Cola would be with portable, bottled beverages customers could take anywhere. He still didn’t realise it five years later, when, in 1899, two Chattanooga lawyers, Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead, secured exclusive rights from Candler to bottle and sell the beverage for the sum of only one dollar.
The Coca-Cola Company grew rapidly and before long expanded into Canada, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, France and other countries and US territories. In 1900, there were two bottlers of Coca-Cola; by 1920, there were about 1,000.In 1941, America entered World War II and thousands of US citizens were sent overseas. To show support for the brave men and women, Coca-Cola President Robert Woodruff ordered that “every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the company”.
In 1943, General Dwight D Eisenhower sent an urgent cable to Coca-Cola requesting shipment of materials for 10 bottling plants. During the war many people enjoyed their first taste of the drink, and when peace finally came, the foundations had been laid for Coca-Cola to do business overseas.
Woodruff’s vision that Coca-Cola be placed within ‘arm’s reach of desire’ was coming true. From the mid-1940s until 1960, the number of countries with bottling operations nearly doubled. With the release of Diet Coke in the 1980's, Coke Zero in 2008 and Coke Life in 2013, Coca Cola is found on tables worldwide, no matter your preference.