History of Coca-Cola


History of Coca-Cola

History of Coca-Cola


The man searches for traces of life on other planets and can’t find peace on his own. The only certain presence on the Moon or Mars or Jupiter is Coca-Cola. All we recognize ourselves in is that red can with silver wings


Mail from land


In my wanderings through supermarkets and shopping malls, the undisputed realm of labels and brands, I can not miss a thought to what is undoubtedly the best known. I will try to deal with the subject from a historical-commercial point of view, leaving out implications that concern food and socio-union issues.


It is a story that starts slowly, though. We are in 1863, somewhere in France. Angelo Mariani created a recipe by macerating some Coca leaves in Bordeaux wine. The inspiration came to him after reading an essay written by scientist Paolo Mantegazza from Monza. In the text, the Italian doctor praised the medicinal properties of the Peruvian plant, having observed and experimented with it during a long stay in Peru. I know, in this introduction I am trying to climb on the mirrors in order to claim a distant Italian contribution to Coca-Cola, which obviously does not exist.
Angelo Mariani’s beverage, also known as Mariani wine, once on the market was widely spread and known all over the world. Many celebrities appreciated it, among them Pope Leo XIII and Pius X; the Zar of Russia, the Prince of Wales, the American president McKinley and also the writer Emile Zola, author of Le Ventre de Paris.


It should be explained that the beverage was obtained by macerating sixty grams of coca leaves in a liter of Bordeaux for about ten hours. The percentage of cocaine per liter was between one hundred and fifty and three hundred milligrams, therefore a glass contained between twenty-five and fifty milligrams. Infinitesimal doses.
Dr. Mariani opened branches of the product in Europe and also in the United States, and began to boast several imitators. Afterward, the beverage remained in commerce until the half of the 1900s, and then it was progressively withdrawn by the heirs.

United States of America

Go trust the doctors. A little more than twenty years after Mariani’s intuition, another pharmacist, John Stith Pemberton, in Atlanta, Georgia, in order to remedy the discomfort of headache and relieve from exhaustion, (1886), thought about a beverage inspired to Mariani’s wine, but instead of alcohol, because of the prohibition in force in Georgia in 1886 (cocaine was removed from the beverage in 1905 for a large percentage and progressively eliminated after 1929, practically discarding the psychotropic element from the leaves), he used extracts of Cola nuts, a plant from the tropics. It was obviously due to the union of coca leaves with cola extract, the derivation of the name.
If John Stith Pemberton had imagined the prospects of the business, he would certainly have planned. The doctor went to Jacobs’ pharmacy with a taste of his drink. Here it was tasted and put on the market. To Pemberton’s syrup, carbonated water was soon added, achieving the taste known today.

Candler Era

The Atlanta pharmacist, however, in addition to the accumulation of debts, did not have a clear understanding of the potential of the drink or even business sense. On the contrary, Asa Candler, a skilled entrepreneur, was not lacking and in a short time, after having bought the shares of the company from Pemberton, as well as the small percentages he had already sold to small traders, he became the owner of Coca Cola company, whose trademark was registered at the United States Patent Office in 1893.
In what is defined as the Candler era, who was well aware of the importance of publicity and greatly enhanced the marketing sector, in 1895 Coca-Cola was drunk in every corner of the United States of America; in 1899 it began to be bottled on an industrial scale (up to that moment, we are talking about soft drinks by the glass). Over the next two decades, it grew from two bottling plants in the country to over a thousand.


It was, however, after 1919, with the purchase of the company by a group of entrepreneurs led by Ernest Woodruff, and, in 1923, with the election of his son Robert as president, that the fortunes of the American colossus began the expansion that has come down to our days. Even the outbreak of World War II was an opportunity to spread the beverage in every part of the world. Robert Woodruff personally committed himself so that every American soldier could buy a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents, wherever he was.

Third Millennium

In the global marketplace, Coca-Cola is certainly a symbol, but of what, it is complicated to establish with impartiality. In some respects, it is an index of democratization, because, to paraphrase Andy Warhol, the drink is the same for the rich and the less well-off. From a different point of view, it manifests the industrial power par excellence.
In supermarkets, thanks to specific commercial agreements that mass consumption allows, Coca-Cola can have exhibition spaces superior to any other brand, so competing with Coca-Cola is a titanic task.
The impact on the collective imagination is all-encompassing. For better or worse, it is impossible to imagine a world without Coca-Cola. Those of my generation, but also those of previous generations, were born, grew up, and, alas, grew old with Coca-Cola. Fanta, Sprite (all the company’s brands), and Cola were the main drinks of teenage parties before we discovered the taste of alcohol and anything else. You had to drink it in moderation because of the gaseous content, but moderation, as a kid, doesn’t exist and everything is consumed excessively. It was something you could drink with dessert, with savory and even without eating. It chilled, indeed, but it didn’t quench your thirst: it fed the need and you wanted nothing but Coke. This, apart from the absolute confidentiality of the recipe, was its secret.



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