The wave shape (known as the "dynamic ribbon device") present on all Coca-Cola cans throughout the world derives from the contour of the original Coca-Cola bottles.
The wave shape (known as the "dynamic ribbon device") present on all Coca-Cola cans throughout the world derives from the contour of the original Coca-Cola bottles.

Coca-Cola (also known as Coke, Coke being a trademark of the Coca-Cola Company after it was discovered many people called it by that particular name) is a very popular carbonated cola soft drink sold in stores, restaurants and vending machines in more than 200 countries. It is produced by the Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO), which is also often referred to as simply Coca-Cola or Coke. It is one of the world's most recognizable and widely sold commercial brands. Coke's major rival is Pepsi.

Originally intended as a patent medicine when it was invented in the late 19th century, Coca-Cola was bought out by shrewd businessman Asa Griggs Candler, whose aggressive marketing tactics led Coke to its dominance of the world soft drink market throughout the 20th century. Although faced with critiques of its health effects and various allegations of wrongdoing by the company, Coca-Cola has remained a popular soft drink well into the first decade of the 21st century.



Early years

The  World of Coca-Cola museum displays  from several  and offers visitors samples of soda from around the world.
The Las Vegas World of Coca-Cola museum displays memorabilia from several decades and offers visitors samples of soda from around the world.

Coca-Cola was invented by John S. Pemberton, a former lieutenant colonel in the Confederate Army, in 1886 in Columbus, Georgia, originally as a cocawine called Pemberton's French Wine Coca. He was inspired by the formidable success of European Angelo Mariani's cocawine, Vin Mariani.

In 1885, when Atlanta and Fulton County passed Prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola, essentially a carbonated, non-alcoholic version of French Wine Cola. The beverage was named Coca-Cola because originally, the stimulant mixed in the beverage was coca leaves from South America. In addition, the drink was flavored using kola (Cola) nuts, the beverage's source of caffeine. Pemberton called for 5 ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup, a significant dose, whereas in 1891 Candler claimed his formula (altered extensively from Pemberton's original) contained only a tenth of this amount. Contrary to popular belief, Coca-Cola never contained cocaine per se, which is a highly-refined extract of coca leaves and was always far too expensive to use in a mass-market beverage. However, as cocaine is one of numerous alkaloids present in the coca leaf, it was nevertheless present in the drink. Today, the flavoring is still done with kola nuts and the coca leaf. However, the coca leaves used today are "spent" leaves, the leftovers of the cocaine-extraction process, and the drink contains no trace of the stimulant.

Coca-Cola was initially sold as a patent medicine for five cents a glass at soda fountains, which were popular in America at the time thanks to a belief that carbonated water was good for the health. Pemberton claimed Coca-Cola cured a myriad of diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence. The first sales were made at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886, and for the first eight months only nine drinks were sold each day. Pemberton ran the first advertisement for the beverage on May 29 of the same year in the Atlanta Journal.

By 1888, three versions of Coca-Cola — sold by three separate businesses — were on the market. Asa Griggs Candler acquired a stake in Pemberton's company in 1887 and incorporated it as the Coca Cola Company in 1888. The same year, while suffering from an ongoing addiction to morphine, Pemberton sold the rights a second time to three more businessmen: J.C. Mayfield, A.O. Murphey and E.H. Bloodworth. Meanwhile, Pemberton's alcoholic son Charley Pemberton began selling his own version of the product (Pendergrast, 41–45).

In an attempt to clarify the situation, John Pemberton declared that the name Coca-Cola belonged to Charley, but the other two manufacturers could continue to use the formula. So, in the summer of 1888, Candler sold his beverage under the names 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 purchased exclusive rights to the formula from John 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 John Pemberton's signature was most likely a forgery as well (Pendergrast, 45–47).

In 1892, Candler incorporated a second company, The Coca-Cola Company (the current corporation), and in 1910 Candler had the earliest records of the company burned, further obscuring its legal origins. Regardless, Candler began aggressively marketing the product — the efficiency of this concerted advertising campaign would not be realized until much later. By the time of its 50th anniversary, the drink had reached the status of a national icon.

Coca-Cola was sold in bottles for the first time on March 12, 1894, and cans of Coke first appeared in 1955. The first bottling of Coca-Cola occurred in Vicksburg, Mississippi, at the Biedenharn Candy Company in 1891. Its proprietor was Joseph A. Biedenharn. The original bottles were Biedenharn bottles, very different from the much later hobble-skirt design that is now so familiar. Asa Candler was tentative about bottling the drink, 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.

World War II

Before and during World War II, Coca-Cola adopted an apparent policy of ignoring the Nazis' practice of eugenics and anti-semitism. Several of Coke's top executives in Germany were prominent Nazi members. When the United States entered World War II, Coke began to represent itself as a patriotic drink by providing free drinks for American soldiers.

The American Army permitted Coca-Cola employees to enter the frontlines as "Technical Officers" when in reality they rarely if ever came close to a real battle. Instead, they operated Coke's system of providing refreshments for soldiers, who welcomed the beverage as a reminder of home. As the Allies advanced, so did Coke, which took advantage of the situation by establishing new franchises in the newly occupied countries.

Coca-Cola set up bottling plants in several locations overseas to assure the drink's availability to soldiers, setting the stage for the company's post-war overseas expansion. The popularity of the drink exploded as American soldiers returned home from the war with a taste for the drink. The beverage had become synonymous with the American way of life.

For more corporate history, see The history of the Coca-Cola Company.

New Coke to the present

 stirred up a controversy when it replaced the original Coca-Cola in . Coca-Cola Classic was reinstated within a few months of New Coke's introduction into the market.
New Coke stirred up a controversy when it replaced the original Coca-Cola in 1985. Coca-Cola Classic was reinstated within a few months of New Coke's introduction into the market.

In 1985, Coca-Cola, amid much publicity, attempted to change the formula of the drink. Some authorities believe that New Coke, as the reformulated drink was called, was invented specifically to respond to its commercial competitor, Pepsi. Double-blind taste tests indicated that most consumers preferred the taste of Pepsi (which has more lemon oil, less orange oil, and uses vanillin rather than vanilla) to Coke. New Coke was reformulated in a way that emulated Pepsi. Follow-up taste tests revealed that most consumers preferred the taste of New Coke to both Coke and Pepsi. The reformulation was led by the then-CEO of the company, Roberto Goizueta, and the President Don Keough.

It is unclear what part long-time company president Robert W. Woodruff played in the reformulation. Goizueta claims that Woodruff endorsed it a few months before his death in 1985; others have pointed out that, as the two men were alone when the matter was discussed, Goizueta might have misinterpreted the wishes of the dying Woodruff, who could speak only in monosyllables. It has also been alleged that Woodruff might not have been able to understand what Goizueta was telling him.

The commercial failure of New Coke therefore came as a grievous blow to the management of the Coca-Cola Corporation. It is possible that customers would not have noticed the change if it had been made secretly or gradually, and thus brand loyalty could have been maintained. Coca-Cola management was unprepared, however, for the nostalgic sentiments the drink aroused in the American public; some compared changing the Coke formula to rewriting the American Constitution.

The new Coca-Cola formula subsequently caused a public backlash. Gay Mullins, from Seattle, Washington, founded the Old Coke Drinkers of America organization, which attempted to sue the company, and lobbied for the formula of Old Coke to be released into the public domain. This and other protests caused the company to return to the old formula under the name Coca-Cola Classic on July 10, 1985. The company was later accused of performing this volte-face as an elaborate ruse to introduce a new product while reviving interest in the original. Donald Keough, company president at the time, responded to the accusation by declaring: "Some critics will say Coca-Cola made a marketing mistake. Some cynics will say that we planned the whole thing. The truth is we are not that dumb, and we are not that smart."

The Coca-Cola Company is the world's largest consumer of natural vanilla extract. When New Coke was introduced in 1985, this had a severe impact on the economy of Madagascar, a prime vanilla exporter, since New Coke used vanillin, a less-expensive synthetic substitute. Purchases of vanilla more than halved during this period. But the flop of New Coke brought a recovery.

Meanwhile, the market share for New Coke had dwindled to only 3% by 1986. The company renamed the product "Coke II" in 1992 (not to be confused with "Coke C2", a reduced-sugar cola launched by Coca-Cola in 2004). However, sales falloff caused a severe cutback in distribution. By 1998, it was sold in only a few places in the Midwestern U.S.

On February 7, 2005, the Coca-Cola Company announced that in the second quarter of 2005 they planned a launch of a Diet Coke product sweetened with the artificial sweetener sucralose ("Splenda"), the same sweetener currently used in Pepsi One. On March 21, 2005, it announced still another diet product, "Coca-Cola Zero," sweetened partly with a blend of aspartame and acesulfame potassium.

Coca-Cola formula

Main article: Coca-Cola formula

The exact formula of Coca-Cola is an infamous trade secret. The original copy of the formula is held in SunTrust Bank's main vault in Atlanta. Its predecessor, the Trust Company, was the underwriter for the Coca-Cola Company's initial public offering in 1919.Template:Ref An urban legend states that only two executives have access to the formula, with each executive having only half the formula. The truth is that while Coca-Cola does have a rule restricting access to only two executives, each knows the entire formula and others, in addition to the prescribed duo, have known the formulation process.

Although the Coca-Cola Company has long denied it, the Peruvian anti-drug agency, Comisin Nacional para el Desarrollo y Vida sin Drogas (DEVIDA), acknowledged in January 2005 that the company buys 115 tons of coca leaf from Peru and 105 tons from Bolivia per year, which it uses as an ingredient in its secret formula.Template:Ref

Coca-Cola's advertising

Missing image
Specially designed Christmas labels featuring Santa Claus give a seasonal twist to these Coca-Cola bottles. The characteristic shape of the bottles is trademarked. It was designed to be universally recognizable, even when broken.

Coca-Cola's advertising has had a significant impact on American culture, and is frequently credited with the "invention" of the modern image of Santa Claus as an old man in red-and-white garments; however, while the company did in fact start promoting this image in the 1930s in its winter advertising campaigns, it was already common before that.Template:Ref In the 1970s, a song from a Coca-Cola commercial called "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing", produced by Billy Davis, became a popular hit single, but there is no evidence that it did anything to increase sales of the soft drink.

Coca-Cola has a policy of avoiding using children younger than the age of 12 in any of its advertising as a result of a lawsuit from the beginning of the 20th century that alleged that Coke's caffeine content was dangerous to children. However, in recent times, this has not stopped the company from targeting young consumers. In addition, it has not been disclosed in exact terms how safe Coke is for consumption by young children (or pregnant mothers).

Coke's advertising has been rather pervasive, as one of Woodruff's stated goals was to ensure that everyone on Earth drank Coca-Cola as their preferred beverage. Advertising for Coke is now almost ubiquitous, especially in southern areas of North America, such as Atlanta, where Coke was born. The 1996 Summer Olympics were hosted in Atlanta, and as a result, Coca-Cola effectively received free advertising. Coca-Cola was also the first-ever sponsor of the Olympic games, at the 1928 games in Amsterdam.

During the 1980s, Pepsi-Cola ran a series of television advertisements showing people participating in taste tests in which they expressed a preference for Pepsi over Coke. Coca-Cola ran ads to combat Pepsi's ads in an incident sometimes referred to as the cola wars; one of Coke's ads compared the so-called Pepsi challenge to two chimpanzees deciding which tennis ball was furrier. Thereafter, Coca-Cola regained its leadership in the market.

In an attempt to broaden its portfolio, Coca-Cola purchased Columbia Pictures in 1982. Columbia provided subtle publicity through Coke product placements in many of its films while under Coke's ownership. However, after a few early successes, Columbia began to underperform, and was dropped by the company in 1989.

Coca-Cola has gone through a number of different advertising slogans in its long history, including "The pause that refreshes", "I'd like to buy the world a Coke", and "Coke is it" (see Coca-Cola slogans).


Missing image
An unusual camel imbibes Coke.



Coca-Cola has been the target of urban legends decrying the drink for its supposedly copious amounts of acid (its pH value of 2.5 is midway between vinegar and gastric acid), or the "life-threatening" effects of its carbonated water. These urban legends usually take the form of "fun facts" — for example, "highway troopers use Coke to clean blood from highways after accidents"; "somebody once died in a Coke-drinking competition"; or "Coke can dissolve a tooth overnight". All of these claims are false. Evidence has been presented in numerous cases against Coca-Cola since the 1920s that decisively proves that the drink is not more harmful than comparable soft drinks. It contains less citric acid than an orange.Template:Ref

One unusual use for Coke is as a rust-control substance—the phosphoric acid in coke converts iron oxide to iron phosphate, and as such can be used as an initial treatment for corroded iron and steel objects being renovated, etc. It has also been experimentally used as a pesticide by Indian farmers in Andhra Pradesh.Template:Ref

The numerous urban legends about Coca-Cola have led the Urban Legends Reference Pages to devote a whole section of their site to "Cokelore (". One false legend claims that Coke was once green, or was accidentally carbonated when a clerk squirted syrup into the wrong glass.

Adverse long-term health effects

While many nutritionists believe that "soft drinks and other calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods can fit into a good diet", it is generally agreed that Coca-Cola and other soft drinks can be harmful if consumed to excess, particularly to young children whose soda consumption competes with, rather than complements, a balanced diet.Template:Ref Studies have shown that regular soft drink users have a lower intake of calcium (which can contribute to osteoporosis), magnesium, ascorbic acid, riboflavin, and vitamin A.Template:Ref

The drink has also aroused criticism for its use of phosphoric acidTemplate:Ref and caffeine.Template:Ref The soft drink industry dismisses many of these criticisms as urban myths.Template:Ref There are some reports that Coca-Cola is addictive, although the veracity of these reports has yet to be established.

For more, see phosphoric acid in food.

Business practices

Main article: Coca-Cola Company: Criticisms

As the largest seller of soft drinks in the world, including its flagship Coca-Cola drink, the Coca-Cola Company has been criticized for some of its corporate actions, such as monopolistic practices, reliance on low health standards, racist employment practices, the privatization of water supplies, and the assassination of union members. There are many critiques of the company's products and trade practices.

  • Coca-Cola was denounced in the UK for weaning young children onto junk food.
  • In India, the corporation has provoked a number of boycotts and protests as a result of its perceived low standards of hygiene and adverse impact on the environment.
  • In Colombia, the company is alleged to be responsible for 179 major human rights violations, including nine murders.

International appeal

Coca-Cola is the best-selling soft drink in most countries. Nevertheless, there are some places like Scotland, where the locally produced Irn-Bru is more popular, Peru, where INCA KOLA, the "National beverage" (independently produced until 1999, when Coca-Cola acquired Corporacin Inca Kola del Per S.A., the Peruvian company that formerly produced it) is more popular, and Quebec and Prince Edward Island, Canada, where Pepsi is the market leader.

The drink as a political and corporate symbol

The Coca-Cola drink has a high degree of identification with the United States itself, being considered an "American brand" or to a small extent as representing America (compare Mickey Mouse). The drink is also often a metonymy for the Coca-Cola Company. The identification with the spread of American culture has led to the pun "Coca-Colonisation" (

Coke is less popular in other places, such as India — due to suspicions regarding the health standards of the drink, and in European and Arab countries such as France, Britain, Germany, the Palestinian territories- due to disapproval of U.S. foreign policy in Israel and elsewhere. Mecca Cola has become a hit in the Middle East in the past few years.

Colombian trade Union SINALTRAINAL called for an international boycott of Coca-Cola products because of intimidation, kidnapping and murder of workers in Coca Cola bottling plants by paramilitaries who were allegedly acting on behalf of the Coca Cola Company in order to drive down wages in Colombia. With the help of the United Steelworkers of America, SINALTRAINAL filed a lawsuit against the Coca Cola Company.


  1. Template:Note Sun Trust (
  2. Template:Note Luis A. Gmez, "Peruvian Drug Control Agency: Coca Cola Buys Coca Leaves (," Narco News Bulletin, January 28, 2005 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  3. Template:Note Barbara Mikkelson and David P. Mikkelson, "The Claus That Refreshes (,", February 27, 2001 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  4. Template:Note Mikkelson and Mikkelson, "Acid Slip (," March 29, 2004 (accessed June 10, 2005); Mikkelson and Mikkelson, "Tooth in Advertising (," February 27, 2001 (accessed June 10, 2005); Mikkelson and Mikkelson, "CO2 Fast, 2 Furious (," April 2, 2004 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  5. Template:Note John Vidal, "Things grow better with Coke (,12559,1341454,00.html)," Guardian Unlimited, November 2, 2004 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  6. Template:Note Michael F. Jacobson, "Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming Americans' Health (," Center for Science in the Public Interest (accessed June 10, 2005).
  7. Template:Note Ibid; Russell Robertson, "Soda, Calcium, and Osteoporosis (," Healthlink—Medical College of Wisconsin (accessed June 10, 2005).
  8. Template:Note "Cola Soft Drinks may Contribite to Lower Bone Mineral Density in Women (," American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, September 19, 2003 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  9. Template:Note "Label Caffeine Content of Foods, Scientists Tell FDA (," Center for Science in the Public Interest, July 31, 1997 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  10. Template:Note Coca-Cola Myths and Rumors ( The Coca-Cola Company (accessed June 10, 2005); "Caffeine and Dehydration: Myth or Fact? (," Food Insight, July–August 2002 (accessed June 10, 2005).


  1. Pendergrast, Mark: For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It. New York: Basic Books, 2000 (second edition; ISBN 0465054684).
  2. Zyman, Sergio: The End of Marketing as We Know It. New York: HarperBusiness (1st edition (June 1, 1999) ISBN 0887309860).

See also

External links


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