The Story Behind the Coke

Most food we relish today is result of accidents and without exception they are real strokes of genius. Frank Epperson leaves a drink outside in the cold overnight and the world gets its first Popsicle, while ice-cream cones get invented in the 1904 World’s Fair at St. Louis and the classic story of the Potato Chip still amuses the world. Cook George Crum invented them to silence a particular fastidious customer of his, who kept returning the French Fries on account that they were ‘soggy’. Still, the best story so far is none other than the Coke’s.

Dr John Stith Pemberton, a pharmacist at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, was working on a cure for headaches. On May 8, 1886 he mixed carbonated water with some special syrup he had invented. This was world’s very first glass of Coca Cola. He started selling them at a drug store at five cents per glass as a health tonic. It soon gathered public opinion. The genius behind the phenomenal success of Coca Cola lies in method used: the Coca Cola Company claims to be the first to distribute coupons for free samples, in order to attract customers. Within eight years, it became popular enough to be bottled. In 1894, candy maker Joseph Biedenharn became the first person to bottle Coca Cola opening the doors to the common public.

Bottling of Coke became the Company’s most important achievement as it put Coca Cola on the world map. The late 19th century witnessed Coca Cola sales rise a phenomenal 4000 per cent. In the first quarter of the 20th century, Coca Cola bottling plants were spread over Europe, Asia and the entire United States. Today, Coca Cola is one of the most prevalent brands in the world, selling more than 1.3 billion drinks every day in 200 countries worldwide.
Though the chemistry and marketing behind the Coke is, definitely, Pemberton’s, the real branding of the product is attributed to his bookkeeper, Frank Robinson. He wrote the product’s name in a sweeping, cursive hand. Today, this is one of world’s most recognised logo. You can find it on bottles, cans, trucks and signs all across the globe. In the past 120 years, the Coca Cola Company has used many marketing slogans and introduced many new products. What has not changed is the flowing letters of Frank Robinson. The logo has stood for over a century, growing each year in prominence.

The syrup that started this soft drinks revolution was indeed a product of an accident, but its constitution remains one of the best kept secrets till date.

Originally published on an earlier blog of mine on July 7, 2010

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