Thursday, March 24, 2016

The World of Coca Cola

Being an avid fan of Coke (yes, I's bad for you) I just had to go see the World of Coca Cola.  It's kind of a pilgrimage for coke addicts like myself.  I started this addiction young in life as my mother told me she used to put it in my bottle at about 8 months of age.  Yes, I still have all my own teeth.

We learned that John S Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta GA, concocted the secret formula in a brass kettle in his backyard in May of 1886.  His original goal was to create a wonder drug to fight fatigue and depression. The name for his product was given to him by his bookkeeper, Frank Robinson.  And Coke was born.

It was Frank Robinson's excellent penmanship that scripted the word Coca Cola into the flowing letters of the famous logo that you still see today.  The first soft drink was sold to the public at the soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta on May 8, 1886. 

About nine servings of the soft drink were sold each day. Sales for that first year added up to a total of about $50. The funny thing was that it cost John Pemberton over $70 in expenses, so the first year of sales were a loss.

Until 1905, the soft drink was marketed as a tonic and  contained extracts of cocaine as well as the caffeine-rich kola nut. After the Spanish American war the government imposed taxes on medicines and after a long court battle in 1898 it was no longer considered a drug and became a soft drink. 

In 1887, another Atlanta pharmacist and businessman, Asa Candler bought the formula for Coca Cola for $2,300. 

John Pemberton died in August 1888 before realizing how successful he would be. If he only knew how this secret formula would change the world!

By the late 1890s, Coca Cola was one of America's most popular fountain drinks, largely due to Candler's aggressive marketing of the product. With Asa Candler, now at the helm, the Coca Cola Company increased syrup sales by over 4000% between 1890 and 1900.

Advertising was an important factor in Asa Candler's success and by the turn of the century, the drink was sold across the United States and Canada.  

n 1899, Ben Franklin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead approached Candler about perhaps bottling the drink so it was available beyond the soda fountain. Asa believed there was no time or need to start bottling. However, he did say that the two men could attempt to bottle the drink as long as they didn't sacrifice quality.

Candler drew up a contract, but didn't set a term on it. Thomas and Whitehead could essentially have the rights to bottle Coke for as long as they wanted, and the could also sell the rights to any bottling plants they created. In addition, he gave the rights away for $1.00.

Why did Candler do this? He seriously believed that there would be no way for the two to be successful. So he figured it was a winning situation because he didn't have to invest anything into the bottling process. At the time, the only way to bottle a drink was with a Hutchinson stopper. It was a rubber stopper that was put in place by a wire, and to open the drink you push the wire in, or "pop" it. Candler believed this method would seriously compromise the quality of the drink.  This must be where the term "pop" came from in lieu of the word soda, at least back in my small town.

But this was not the kind of bottling Thomas and Whitehead had in mind. By 1900, however, bottle caps were beginning to surface. This was the perfect solution for the bottling problem. In the early 1900's bottled Coca-Cola was available at grocers and saloons.

Coke bottling was a highly successful venture. Thomas sold the bottling rights to independent businessmen, and by 1909, 379 bottling plants were in American cities and towns. With the bottle caps keeping the drink fresh, mules and carts were about to deliver the drinks to towns in all parts of the country. These bottles were the standard kind found in the day.

In the early days there was not the refrigeration that we enjoy today and beverages were kept in ice boxes.  Often the paper labels would fall off from getting wet and thus a design was needed to make the product identifiable in the dark purely by its matter what country you might be in.

In 1916 a bottling company in Terre Haute Indiana came up with the design that is still recognizable today.  They designed in in the shape of a cocoa bean, misunderstanding the term of Coca cola.  This unique shape continues into the plastic bottles that we see today. In 1923 the world's first six pack was created.

Advertising for Coca-Cola definitely stands out in the minds of many Americans, and that is most evident in the Coca-Cola Santa Clause ads.

Before artist Hadoon Sundbloom's ads appeared in the 1931, Santa Clause had been illustrated as wearing blue, green, yellow, or red. He was also of average size.  I never knew this!

But new Coca-Cola advertisements showed Santa as a plump, round man with rosy cheeks and a long, white beard. He is also wearing bright red. He was essentially the perfect image of Coca-Cola. Not only did the ads become popular, but they have helped to shape the way all Americans look at Santa Clause. After the Coke ads, all Santa illustrations became more similar. Now, most of them depict a fat, jolly, red-suit donning man.

Until the 1960s, both small town and big city dwellers enjoyed carbonated beverages at the local soda fountain or ice cream saloon. I remember this very clearly as a child watching the man behind the counter preparing our beverages.  This was the most popular meeting place in our small town.

It's a beverage we all grew up with.  It's universal throughout the world.  You can order a coke in any language.  At the World of Coca Cola we went through the tasting center and could sample selections from around the world.  I have to say I prefer those that I'm familiar with right here in the good old US of A.

It was a fun filled day with movies and a 4D presentation and more information than one can possibly digest.

Long Live the Queen of Coca Cola


  1. I had some old small metal trays with the Coca Cola Santa on them - wonder if I kept them?

  2. Interesting post. Bill educated me on this, as he likes Coca-Cola. He has hauled many loads of Coke, too. It sounds like you had fun. Well, they say things go better with Coke.

  3. I too am hooked on Coke ... but only the Lime Coke. I really am a Pepsi person, but Pepsi stopped making the Lime Pepsi so I was stuck with Coke. That said, a day doesn't go by that I don't have one. I love your information. We had a Coke Bottling company in my hometown when I was growing up and we used to go visit, watch them bottle the coke and then, yes! A free sample :) This was fun Queen of Coke information ... I learned a lot from you today :)

    Andrea @ From The Sol

  4. What a great post. I too enjoy Coke. I remember when I was a little girl, we would sit at the soda counter at the drug store and have a coke. We used to give our babies a bit of coke syrup to settle their tummies too. We got this in a little brown glass bottle from the pharmacist. Hmmm, memories. Thanks. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.