The History of Coca-Cola

Coca Cola Bottling Co Key West, Florida, 1965.

Dr. John Pemberton invented the Coca-Cola syrup at a time when Americans drank soft drinks while socializing at soda fountains.

In the first year, approximately nine servings were made daily, amounting to a total annual revenue of $50. Today, the Coca-Cola Company sells nearly 1.9 billion bottles daily through its distributors and bottling partners worldwide.

The History of Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has, since its founding, been a spur for social interaction and celebration. Most of us enjoy this soft drink to celebrate as we socialize with friends, family, and colleagues.

Coca-Cola is one of the most successful companies and brands globally, with a market outreach of more than 200 countries.

It’s hard to believe that this company’s history began in the backroom of a pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.

Inventing the Syrup Formula

On May 8th, 1886, Dr. John Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, invented the Coca-Cola syrup in a three-legged brass kettle at the back of his drugstore.

He took the syrup to the neighboring Jacob’s Pharmacy, added carbonated water, and served it for sampling. Customers at Jacob’s Pharmacy loved the soft drink, labeling it as something special.

The Coca-Cola syrup was not Pemberton’s first and only invention. It was a follow-up to his earlier creation,

French Wine Coca, which he developed in 1885 to treat common ailments.

This patented medicine contained cocaine from coca leaf extract, caffeine, and red wine. It was bitter and alcoholic, thus popular in a small niche market.

Pemberton figured it best to produce a non-alcoholic version that would appeal to adults and children alike. He removed the red wine and added lots of sugar, thus formulating the Coca-Cola syrup.

Even though the Coca-Cola Company today denies this, the initial Coca-Cola syrup formula had cocaine as one of the ingredients. This was before the government declared cocaine an illegal substance in 1914.

The company removed cocaine from its syrup formula in 1903.

Pemberton had successfully developed the Coca-Cola syrup formula. Now, he needed a name for his new product.

His accountant, Frank Robinson, suggested the name Coca-Cola, a combination of “coca” (from the coca leaf extract) and “kola” (from the kola nut, which was the caffeine extract).

He thought it best to change “Kola” to “Cola” and have 2Cs for effective advertising.

Robinson was also the man behind the Coca-Cola script logo. He penned it shortly after coming up with the name, and the logo has never changed since then.

The Founding of The Coca-Cola Company

Pemberton sold the Coca-Cola syrup formula to pharmacies and stores with soda fountains, beginning with Jacob’s Pharmacy. His first year in the soft beverage business was not a success.

He made sales amounting to $50 after investing $70 in costs and expenses.

In 1887, Pemberton sold the Coca-Cola formula to Asa Candler, another Atlanta pharmacist, for $2,300. He passed away a year later, leaving the fate of Coca-Cola in the hands of Candler.

Candler continued producing and selling the Coca-Cola syrup to stores with soda fountains.

He incorporated The Coca-Cola Company in 1892 and registered the Coca-Cola trademark in 1893. Under Candler’s management, sales rose by approximately 4,000% from 9,000 gallons in 1890 to 370,877 gallons by 1900.

Under Asa Candler’s Leadership

Candler saw the growth potential of the Coca-Cola soft drink. He poured more than $100,000 into mass advertising to get the Coca-Cola brand name known.

Candler put the Coca-Cola logo on almost anything, from calendars to wallets to pocket mirrors to barns and vending machines. Candler also offered free samples to the company’s top 50 customers.

The Dawn of Bottling

Before bottles, customers had to drink Coca-Cola at the soda fountain. This trend continued for most of the 20th century, gradually being replaced by bottling.

The first Coca-Cola bottling franchise was formed in 1894 by a Mississippi businessman named Joseph Biedenharn. Biedenharn was the first to put Coca-Cola in bottles, thus making it portable.

Biedenharn could only bottle Coca-Cola on a small scale. The company still had to rely on its distribution system by establishing syrup-making plants in Dallas, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and other states in the US.

Large-scale bottling became possible in 1899 when the company signed an agreement giving a bottling company run by three Tennessee business partners the right to bottle and sell Coca-Cola throughout the United States.

Going Public

Asa Candler remained owner and president of The Coca-Cola Company until 1919 when he sold it to a group of investors for $25 million.

During his tenure, the company removed cocaine from its syrup. The Coca-Cola Company also designed its uniquely contoured glass bottle in 1916.

The Coca-Cola Company was then owned by a group of businessmen, the lead investor being Ernest Woodruff. The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in September 1919, issuing 600,000 shares at $40 each.

Robert W. Woodruff, Ernest Woodruff’s son, became the company’s president in 1923 and led it until 1955.

Woodruff is responsible for taking Coca-Cola international. He took the brand to The Netherlands in 1928 and later to Canada and Spain.

By 1940, Coca-Cola was in forty countries, from larger nations like France to small ones such as Bermuda and Trinidad.

Woodruff also established a Coca-Cola research department and enforced quality control in the company’s entire distribution system.

Woodruff wanted Coca-Cola to taste the same everywhere. Therefore, he introduced and required bottling partners to follow a strict standard for mixing the syrup with carbonated water.

Woodruff also introduced the six-pack carton of Coke, which encouraged customers to buy the drink for home consumption.

The name “Coke” was first used in 1941 and registered as a trademark in 1945.

Coca-Cola During World War II

At the start of World War II, Coca-Cola had operations in many large nations, including Germany, where the company had bottling plants and local distributors.

When the United States joined World War II, Coca-Cola was forced to halt business activities with any US enemy.

The company could not send coke syrup and other ingredients to Germany, which affected operations on this side of the world.

Max Keith, the head of Coca-Cola operations in Germany, decided to concoct a new drink using whey, apple fiber, and any available seasonal fruit.

He named the drink Fanta, short for the German word “fantasie.” By selling Fanta, Keith managed to keep operations intact in Germany even though he couldn’t work with the Coca-Cola headquarters in the United States.

After the end of the war, Keith submitted the profits from the Fanta sales to Coca-Cola headquarters.

The company embraced Fanta as their new innovative product and resumed German operations.

Back home, Woodruff availed Coke to every United States soldier at 5 cents per bottle. This was his company’s way of supporting the country and motivating soldiers during the war.

Brand and Product Expansion

The years following World War II to the early 1980s marked rapid product diversification and foreign expansion for The Coca-Cola Company.

The company acquired the Minute Maid Corporation in 1960 and Duncan Foods Corporation in 1963. Coca-Cola also purchased Belmont Springs Water Company in 1969, Aqua-Chem Inc. in 1970, and Taylor Wines Company in 1977.

Coca-Cola introduced Sprite, the lemon-lime soft drink, in 1961. The company also launched TAB in 1963 and Fresca in 1966.

Coca-Cola launched these soft drinks to compete with Pepsi-Cola, which was gaining immense popularity with the baby boomers in the United States.

New Coke

Woodruff retired as Coca-Cola’s president and CEO in 1955 but remained on the finance committee. He was succeeded by a series of CEOs from 1955 to the 1980s.

The highlight of these successions occurred in 1981 when Roberto C. Goizueta took the helm. Goizueta is the man behind the launch of Diet Coke in 1980.

He is also responsible for announcing the New Coke formula that saw Coca-Cola briefly lose its market share.

Coca-Cola experienced sluggish sales in the first half of the 1980s due to intense competition from PepsiCo. By 1984, Coke had a 21.6% market share, while Pepsi boasted 22.8%.

Goizueta tackled this challenge by reformulating the drink. He thought the public would enthusiastically embrace this change. Unfortunately, they did not. Customers were attached to the old Coke.

The New Coke formula was a blunder, and Coca-Cola returned to the old syrup three months later.

PepsiCo enjoyed being in the lead during this brief debacle, but Coca-Cola quickly returned to become the leading beverage company in and out of the United States.

Even though the New Coke formula veered Coca-Cola off course, the company kept moving forward with the launch of the Powerade sports drink in 1990 and Fruitopia line in 1994.

Coca-Cola also formed a joint venture with Nestle S.A. to produce ready-to-drink coffee and tea beverages.

The 21st Century

Goizueta passed away in 1997 due to lung cancer. During his 16-year tenure, he increased Coca-Cola’s market share to 42% in the United States and 50% globally.

Coke was far ahead of Pepsi, which had a 31% market share in the United States. Goizueta also increased Coca-Cola’s annual revenue from $4.8 billion in 1981 to $18.55 billion by 1996.

Douglas Ivester, his right-hand man, became the new CEO but resigned after two years.

Coca-Cola launched Diet Lemon Coke in 2001, Vanilla Coke in 2002, and Coke Zero in 2005. By 2002, the company still ranked as the top beverage company in the world.

Coca-Cola has close to 300 beverage brands in more than 200 countries. The company makes 60% of its revenues from outside the United States.

Coca-Cola Today

The Coca-Cola Company is today the leading beverage company in the world. The company has more than 86,000 employees, and its headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia.

The largest shareholders are Berkshire Hathaway with 9.28%, The Vanguard Group with 7.25%, and BlackRock with 6.56%.

Timeline.Coca-Cola Company Timeline


Dr. John Pemberton invents the Coca-Cola syrup.


Dr. John Pemberton passes away after leaving the rights for the Coca-Cola syrup to Asa Candler.


Candler acquires complete ownership of Pemberton’s soft drink business.


Candler incorporates The Coca-Cola Company.


Candler registers the Coca-Cola trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.


The Coca-Cola Company ventures into bottling its soft drink through Joseph Biedenharn, an independent partner.


The company signs an agreement with a large-scale bottling franchise owned by three Tennessee business partners.


The Coca-Cola Company designs its uniquely-contoured glass bottle.


Candler sells The Coca-Cola Company to a group of investors for $25 million.


Robert W. Woodruff becomes the president of Coca-Cola.


Coca-Cola uses the Coke trademark for the first time in advertising.


The company registers the Coke trademark with the United States Patent Office.


The Coca-Cola Company embraces Fanta as its new innovative soft drink.


The Coca-Cola Company acquires the Minute Maid Corporation.


The company launches Sprite.


The company launches Tab.


The company launches Fresca.


Coca-Cola becomes the first company to sell and distribute cold beverages in the People’s Republic of China.


Coca-Cola launches Diet Coke.


Coca-Cola suffers the New Coke formula debacle.


Coca-Cola launches Powerade.


Coca-Cola forms a joint venture with Nestle S.A. to produce ready-to-drink coffee and tea beverages.


Coca-Cola launches the Fruitopia line of drinks.


Coca-Cola launches Diet Lemon Coke.


Coca-Cola launches Vanilla Coke.


Coca-Cola launches Coke Zero.


The Coca-Cola Company acquires Fuze Beverage for $250 million.


The Coca-Cola Company purchases ZICO, a coconut water company.


The Coca-Cola Company acquires a minority interest in Body Armor and purchases a 22% stake in MADE Group.

More About Coca-Cola

Besides the information above, below are resources that lead to additional information.

Most links lead to search results by design so that you always have the latest information anytime you visit this post.

Coca-Cola Website


  • In a three-legged brass kettle, Coca-Cola began in the backroom of a pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.Red wine and cocaine were some of the first ingredients in Coke.
  • Frank Robinson, Pemberton’s accountant, suggests that Coca-Cola’s name comes from the coca plant and the kola nut.
  • Almost immediately after coming up with the name, Robinson penned the Coca-Cola script logo.
  • It was originally only possible to purchase Coca-Cola from a tap.
  • Coca-Cola Bottles were shaped like cocoa beans.
  • It was Coca-Cola that invented coupons.
  • In September 1919, Coca-Cola was listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for $40 per share.
  • Coca-Cola was the first Olympic sponsor.
  • The six-pack was invented by Coca-Cola.
  • It was the company that popularized open-top coolers.
  • Santa, as you know him, is at least partially due to Coca-Cola.
  • During a 1950 cover illustration for Time Magazine, Earth is shown drinking Coke.
  • On the Challenger space shuttle, astronauts drank Coke in 1985.
  • Former Coca-Cola secretary Joya Williams was sentenced to eight years in prison for trying to sell company secrets to rival Pepsi.
  • The Coca-Cola Company sells nearly 1.9 billion bottles of Coca-Cola daily.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a few questions searched for online. Even though many of these have been answered in the content above, we have included them here in the form of a summary.

What Does the Coca-Cola Company Do?

  • Coca-Cola produces soft drinks, sports drinks, juice, dairy products, plant-based drinks, tea, coffee, bottled water, syrups, and concentrates.

What Type of Company Is the Coca-Cola Company?

  • As a publicly traded company with over 200 brands, most of its products fall under non-alcoholic beverages sold in more than 200 countries and territories.

Is Coca-Cola an Indian Company?

  • Although Coca-Cola is an American company, Coca-Cola India Limited is a private, unlisted company.

What Is Coca-Cola’s Full Name?

  • “The Coca-Cola Company.”

Why Is Coca-Cola So Successful?

The Coca-Cola Company is successful due to many factors. Some factors that stand out include; Coca-Cola is a desirable drink. In addition, strong brand marketing coupled with the acquisition of smaller competitors allows Coca-Cola to dominate the market.

What Type of Products Does Coca-Cola Produce?

  • 200 brands are available from The Coca-Cola Company, including sodas, waters, coffees, and teas.

Some of its top brands include:

  • Coca-Cola (Coke)
  • Diet Coke
  • Coke Zero
  • Sprite
  • Fanta
  • Dasani

See the search results for The Coca-Cola Company’s top brands.

What Type of Products Does Coca-Cola Produce?

  • In 1977, the Coca-Cola Company withdrew operations from India due to India’s laws limiting multinational corporations.

Why Is It Called Cola?

  • Originally, the “Coca” portion of the beverage’s name was inspired by Coca leaf. Kola nuts are the source of “Cola,” which is another component.

What Is the Difference Between Coke and Coca-Cola?

  • They are the same. Coca-Cola is abbreviated as Coke.

Coca-Cola Executive Team

When the management team makes well-researched decisions, a company can thrive, while bad decisions can easily destroy a company, even if it has been in business for many years.

Coca-Cola has been in business for over a hundred years, with new leadership teams every few years. Smart leaders are careful not to disrupt what the company stands for while keeping up with the times and driving innovation carefully.

If interested in past and present leadership at Coca-Cola, take a few minutes to browse the link below.

Search Results – Executive team of Coca-Cola.

Working at Coca-Cola

When you look through posted employee reviews, you understand how in touch management is with the workforce.

Naturally, some employees will post negative reviews wherever they work. So, you’ll have to look at many reviews to gain an overview of the working conditions.

Another point is Coca-Cola is a huge company with many departments.

People that work in the warehouse and production may have different experiences than those that work in administration and management.

If you’re interested in what it’s like to work at Coca-Cola, you can view employee feedback from the link below, leading to the latest search results.

Search Results – Working at Coca-Cola.

Complaints and Lawsuits

The larger the company, the more complaints and lawsuits you will find.

Many legitimate lawsuits indicate a problem with the management team, whether past or present.

When studying the lawsuits, you can gain an understanding of how the issues were resolved.

If interested, you can see the link below to browse through current and past problems.

Search Results – Complaints and Lawsuits related to Coca-Cola.

Company Profile

A company profile gives you a professional overview of a company, its products, services, mission statement, etc.

A lot of detail goes into a company profile and is naturally beyond the scope of this article.

If you want to look into the company profile of Coca-Cola, see the search results from the link below.

Search Results – Coca-Cola Company Profile.

Investment Outlook

Whether you are interested in investing or not. The investment outlook reveals a lot about the financials of the company.

Based on analysts’ findings and comments, you will also learn whether the company is on track to meet expectations or off track.

To get into the details, see the link below, where you can find the latest information related to the current performance of Coca-Cola.

Search Results – Coca-Cola Investors Outlook.


You can expand your knowledge of Coca-Cola by looking at books written about the company.

Naturally, a book has much more detailed information than an article.

The link below offers the latest publication from amazon related to the Coca-Cola company.

View the most recent books related to Coca-Cola on Amazon.


If you are interested in staying up to date with everything related to Coca-Cola covered by the media, you can use a site like Google News.

The link below offers you a list of the latest stories. You can even set up an alert to get notified anytime something new is published.

See Google’s News search results related to Coca-Cola.


Videos are another way to learn about Coca-Cola, from its roots to its current state. View videos for an inside look, for example, the manufacturing of Coca-Cola.

See the link below leading the latest videos published on YouTube related to Coca-Cola.

See the most recent videos related to Coca-Cola.