Coca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants and vending machines internationally. The Coca-Cola Company claims that the beverage is sold in more than 200 countries. It is produced by The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, Georgia, and is often referred to simply as Coke (a now genericized trademark) or (in European and American countries) as cola or pop. Originally intended as a patent medicine when it was invented in the
late 19th century by John Pemberton, Coca-Cola was bought out by businessman Asa Griggs Candler, whose marketing tactics led Coke to its dominance of the world soft-drink market throughout the 20th century.
The company produces concentrate, which is then sold to licensed Coca-Cola bottlers throughout the world. The bottlers, who hold territorially exclusive contracts with the company, produce finished product in cans and bottles from the concentrate in combination with filtered water and sweeteners.
The bottlers then sell, distribute and merchandise Coca-Cola to
retail stores and vending machines. Such bottlers include Coca-Cola
Enterprises, which is the largest single Coca-Cola bottler in North America and western Europe. The Coca-Cola Company also sells concentrate for soda fountains to major restaurants and food service distributors.
The Coca-Cola Company has, on occasion, introduced other cola drinks under the Coke brand name. The most common of these is Diet Coke, with others including Caffeine-Free Coca-Cola, Diet Coke Caffeine-Free, Coca-Cola Cherry, Coca-Cola Zero, Coca-Cola Vanilla, and special editions with lemon, lime or coffee.
In response to consumer insistence on a more natural product, the company is in the process of phasing out E211, or sodium benzoate, the controversial additive used in Diet Coke and linked to DNA damage to yeast cells and hyperactivity in children. The company has stated that it plans to remove E211 from its other products, including Sprite and Oasis, as soon as a
satisfactory alternative is found.
The first Coca-Cola recipe was invented in a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia by John Pemberton, originally as a cocawine called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca in 1885. He may have been inspired by the formidable success of Vin Mariani, a European cocawine.
In 1886, when Atlanta and Fulton County passed prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola, essentially a non-alcoholic version of French Wine Cola. The first sales were at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886. It was initially sold as a patent medicine for five cents a glass at soda fountains, which were popular in the United States at the time due to the belief that carbonated water was good for
the health.Pemberton claimed Coca-Cola cured many diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence. 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 four more businessmen: J.C. Mayfield, A.O. Murphey, C.O. Mullahy and E.H. Bloodworth. Meanwhile, Pemberton’s alcoholic son Charley Pemberton began selling his
own version of the product.
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.
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. By the time of its 50th anniversary, the drink had reached the status of a national icon in the USA. In 1935, it was certified kosher by Rabbi Tobias Geffen, after the company
made minor changes in the sourcing of some ingredients.
Coca-Cola was sold in bottles for the first time on March 12, 1894. The first outdoor wall advertisement was painted in the same year as well in Cartersville, Georgia. 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 two entrepreneurs from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead, proposed the idea and were so persuasive that Candler signed a contract giving them control of the procedure for only one dollar. Candler never collected his dollar, but in 1899 Chattanooga became the site of
the first Coca-Cola bottling company. 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, effectively becoming parent bottlers.
Coke concentrate, or Coke syrup, was and is sold separately at pharmacies in small quantities, as an over-the-counter remedy for nausea or mildly upset stomach.