Coca Cola – facts, figures and myths

• Coca-Cola made its world debut at the Jacobs’ Pharmacy soda fountain in Atlanta, where it sold for 5 cents a glass in 1886.

• In the first year Coca-Cola creator John Pemberton sold an average of just nine glasses a day. The company now sells 1.4 billion beverage servings every day.

• John Pemberton died in 1888 without realising the success of the beverage he had created.

 Asa Griggs Candler, an Atlanta businessman, bought up the rights to the business between 1888 and 1891 for a total of $2,300. By 1895, the drink was in demand nationwide and Candler had built syrup plants in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.

• The men who served Coca-Cola at soda fountains were called Soda Jerks because of the jerking motion they made preparing a glass of the fizzy drink. They traditionally wore a white hat and a white coat or apron.

• Marathon cyclists were the first athletes to endorse Coca-Cola. World champion and Georgia-native Bobby Walthour appeared in a 1909 newspaper advertisement that now hangs at the company’s World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.

• Despite Candler’s successes, he didn’t fully realise the potential of bottled Coca-Cola that people could enjoy anywhere and in 1899, two lawyers, Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead, secured exclusive rights from Candler to bottle and sell the beverage – for the sum of only $1.

• Coca-Cola’s first bottling plant in Asia opened in the Philippines in 1912. Coca-Cola’s first bottling plant in Europe opened in France in 1919.

• The company, concerned by ‘copycat drinks’ focused its advertising on the authenticity of Coca-Cola. It decided to create a distinctive bottle shape to assure people they were actually getting a real Coca-Cola. In 1916, the contour bottle, which remains the signature shape of Coca-Cola today, was chosen for its attractive appearance, original design and the fact that, even in the dark, you could identify the genuine article.

• The Coca-Cola six-pack carton was introduced in 1923, an innovation at the time.

• The character Sprite Boy was introduced in 1942 – decades before the Sprite drink. Sprite Boy helped tell people it was OK to use the name “Coke” to refer to Coca-Cola, something the company had previously resisted.

• It took Coca-Cola 70 years to expand into new flavours: Fanta, originally developed in the 1940s, was introduced in the 1950s; Sprite followed in 1961, with TAB in 1963 and Fresca in 1966. In 1960, The Coca-Cola Company acquired The Minute Maid Company, adding an entirely new line of business – juices. The company now has an astounding portfolio of 500 brands and ’3,300 beverages’.

• Coca-Cola advertising came into its own with the, now famous, 1971 commericial featuring young people from around the world gathered on a hilltop singing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”.

• Diet Coke was introduced in the 1980s – the “era of legwarmers, headbands and the fitness craze” according to Coca-Cola’s website.

• Coke was guilty of “the worst marketing blunder ever” in 1985 when it released “new Coke“, changing the recipe for the first time in 99 years. In taste tests people had said they loved the new flavour, but when it was released to the market place there was an outcry from customers and Coke was forced into U-turn, bringing back the original flavour as Coca-Cola classic.

• The Coca-Cola Polar Bear was introduced in 1993 as part of the “Always Coca-Cola” campaign.

• Coca-Cola is the only grocery product to have had sales of over £1bn in the UK.

• Coca-Cola has spawned a number of myths, including that it was originally green (the bottle was green but the drink has always been brown); that teeth, steaks, coins and other items will dissolve if left in a glass of Coca-Cola overnight (they won’t) and that traffic officers have used the drink to clean stains off roads after traffic accidents (there are no recorded instances).