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Coca-Cola is world famous, but how did it start?

Updated on January 5, 2011

The Syrup

In 1886, John Styth Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist, came up with a particular syrup, in addition to his other concoctions against hair loss, headaches and whatever. He sold his articles to other pharmacists as medicinal products.

The syrup consisted of cane sugar, caffeine and extracts of Kola nuts (cocaine) and Koka leaves. The drink was diluted with water, and cooled with ice cubes.

His bookkeeper Frank Robinson suggested the name Coca Cola, and since he was an excellent pen illustrator, he signed the name with the elegant pen curls we still admire today.

Pemberton's health was precarious however, and the next year he sold his secret formula to several pharmacists, and died a few months later.

Read my Hub on why Coca Cola was actually invented !

The Drink

After 1888, sales of the drink were increasing, and it was also sold in various Soda Fountains, a sort of pub, where people could take a refreshing drink.

Legend has it that the mix of the syrup with soda, instead of plain water, was actually made accidentally by a negligent employee !  Anyway, the result was a bull's eye, and the new Coca-Cola was born!

Asa Candler

In 1989 Asa Candler, an Atlanta drugstore distributor, gradually bought all of the shares, and by 1891 he owned the entire company, for roughly $ 2,300 !

In 1892 he founded the Coca Cola Company, and the next year he patented the name, but not the product.

Given the unpleasant reputation of cocaine, he reduced the percentage of coca in the formula but still retained a minimal amount, given the established name of the product. He wanted his drink to stand out against the competition, who also used Koka leaves to produce their drinks.


In 1892, Candler spent more than 11,000 $ on his first massive advertising campaign.  The Coca Cola logo, with white letters on a red background, appeared throughout the entire nation.

The man was a sheer marketing genius, and he devised every possible way to promote his drink.

For instance, he was the first to hand out coupons to attract new customers, and also the first to give away free Cola-glasses !


In 1899, lawyers Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead of Chattanooga, Tennessee, wanted to buy the rights to distribute Cola syrup to all American bottle companies.

Candler at that time saw no profit in bottling, and sold them the rights for one dollar, provided that only he could supply his (secret) syrup. Even his blunder still proved to be on target, because the bottles unleashed a storm !

In 1915, the success of the beverage had become so great that imitators emerged from everywhere, to rake in a crumb from his rich table.

The Coca-Cola bottle

An absolute master stroke was the development in 1916 of a special patented bottle, the Coca-Cola bottle.

It almost instantly checked all imitators !

The bottle's model was derived from the curvature of a Coca-bean.

Coca Cola History

Further Expansion

In 1916 Asa Candler retired from the business, and he left it to his children. Later he became mayor of Atlanta.

In 1919, his children sold the company to Ernest Woodruff of Columbus, Georgia for $ 25 million, and in 1923 his son Robert became the president. Robert further expanded the business, so that by 1923 they sold six million bottles per day.

In 1926 Woodruff wanted to expand his company into other countries, and he founded the Foreign Department. Three years later they sold Coca Cola in 28 countries !

"Invading" Europe...

The period before World War II saw a further development in Nazi Germany, and after the war (with the benevolent assistance of the U.S. government...) the whole of Europe was open to further development, with sixty-four new bottling plants.

In 1945 the company patented the popular name Coke, and by 1950, they sold fifty million bottles per day !

In 1982, the company introduced Diet Coke, which soon became the best-selling beverage in the world. However, archrival Pepsi Cola came up tremendously, and in 1984 the market was almost equally divided between them.


The company devotes a significant proportion of its revenue on marketing and publicity, and it was the first company to sponsor the Olympic Games in Amsterdam, a tradition they follow to this day.

The "Coca-Cola Store" in Atlanta, GA, features an incredible collection of all sorts of objects that have ever been conceived and used to further the brand. Fortunately, next to the more traditional "trinkets", it also contains several beautiful and remarkable creations !

At present, Coca Cola is sold in more than 170 countries, and every day more than 600 million Cola's go over the counter...

Cheers !

The wonderful Coca Cola Christmas Video !


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    • Zazuzu profile image

      Zazuzu 6 years ago

      Great article! I've always enjoyed the story of how coke spread during WWII because American Soldiers would share/trade their coke rations with locals.

    • profile image

      Slusterbubble 6 years ago

      I heard of that too, it even appears that you can put some completely rusted nails in coke, and overnight the rust will disappear !

    • manicmusicfan profile image

      manicmusicfan 6 years ago

      Coke also has a lot of other uses, beyond being an amazing soda.

      For instance, not only does coke make a good conditioner in a pinch, but it also can help you clean corroded battery cables.