Coke Solutions

Through the Years: Coca-Cola® History

Trace the path of The Company's brand evolution

Today, Forbes recognizes Coca-Cola as one of the top five brands in the world, but the drink came into the world very quietly some 129 years ago in a Georgia pharmacy.

Dr. John Pemberton invented a syrup in 1886, combined it with carbonated water, and sold it for 5 cents a serving. During that first year, Pemberton sold nine drinks a day. In the meantime, his accountant, Frank Robinson, took on the earliest of branding duties. Robinson christened the drink "Coca-Cola" in part because he was sure the double Cs would look great in advertisements. He also chose the Spenserian script for the logo, which endures today.

By the early 1900s, annual sales of Coca-Cola hit $1 million, and the soda had entered markets outside the United States. Bottling operations expanded to Canada, Cuba, and Panama in 1906. Alexander Samuelson created the Contour bottle prototype a few years later, in 1915. After some reconfiguration, that bottle was the only packaging used for the drink for the next 40 years.

In a 1920s Supreme Court ruling for Coca-Cola, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that the drink is "a single thing from a single source ..." and for many years, it was just that. The secret formula for Coca-Cola was kept in a bank vault, and the company ceased bottling in India in 1977 rather than reveal the recipe. But in 1985, for the first time in its history, Coke changed things up. The standard was replaced by a newer, sweeter concoction. The public, however, was not pleased. A mere 79 days later, the company brought back the original as "Coca-Cola Classic." New Coke remained on the market until 2002.

Coca-Cola's popularity around the globe happened fairly quickly - as early as the late 1950s, sales outside of the United States accounted for 33 percent of The Company's revenue. By the mid-1990s, the drink was being served in China, Russia, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, and even India. Popularity at home has remained strong from the drink's inception. According to Business Insider, Americans drank an average of 399 servings of Coke products in 2011; 63% of that was Coke Classic, which the publication reported amounted to 125.7 servings of Coke per person. In 2014, Coke had a market share of 17.6%.

A study released in April 2015 found that nearly 17% of consumers claim Coke as their favorite soft drink brand. That's twice the number of consumers who choose Pepsi (7.8%), according to the U.S. Bev360 survey. In Nielsen-measured channels, brand Coke has grown both unit and value share each of the past four years

Which all just goes to show that Dr. John Pemberton was really onto something.

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Published: July 09, 2015