Coca-Cola® originated as a soda fountain beverage in 1886 selling for
five cents a glass. Early growth was impressive, but it was only when
a strong bottling system developed that Coca-Cola became the
world-famous brand it is today.
|1894 … A modest start for a bold idea
In a candy store in Vicksburg, Mississippi, brisk sales of the new
fountain beverage called Coca-Cola impressed the store's
owner, Joseph A. Biedenharn. He began bottling Coca-Cola
to sell, using a common glass bottle called a Hutchinson.
Biedenharn sent a case to Asa Griggs Candler, who owned the Company.
Candler thanked him but took no action. One of his nephews already had
urged that Coca-Cola be bottled, but Candler focused on
… The first bottling agreement
Two young attorneys from Chattanooga, Tennessee believed they could
build a business around bottling Coca-Cola. In a meeting
with Candler, Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead obtained
exclusive rights to bottle Coca-Cola across most of the
United States -- for the sum of one dollar. A third Chattanooga
lawyer, John T. Lupton, soon joined their venture.
|1900-1909 … Rapid growth
The three pioneer bottlers divided the country into territories and
sold bottling rights to local entrepreneurs. Their efforts were
boosted by major progress in bottling technology, which improved
efficiency and product quality. By 1909, nearly 400 Coca-Cola
bottling plants were operating, most of them family-owned businesses.
Some were open only during hot-weather months when demand was high.
… Birth of the Contour Bottle
Bottlers worried that Coca-Cola's straight-sided bottle
was easily confused with imitators. A group representing the Company
and bottlers asked glass manufacturers to offer ideas for a
distinctive bottle. A design from the Root Glass Company of Terre
Haute, Indiana won enthusiastic approval. The Contour Bottle became
one of the few packages ever granted trademark status by the U.S.
Patent Office. Today, it's one of the most recognized icons in the
world - even in the dark!
|1920s … Bottling overtakes fountain sales
As the 1920s dawned, more than 1,000 Coca-Cola bottlers
were operating in the U.S. Their ideas and zeal fueled steady growth.
Six-bottle cartons were a huge hit starting in 1923. A few years
later, open-top metal coolers became the forerunners of automated
vending machines. By the end of the 1920s, bottle sales of
Coca-Cola exceeded fountain sales.
|1920s and '30s … International expansion
Led by Robert W. Woodruff, chief executive officer and chairman of the
Board, the Company began a major push to establish bottling operations
outside the U.S. Plants were opened in France, Guatemala, Honduras,
Mexico, Belgium, Italy and South Africa. By the time World War II
began, Coca-Cola was being bottled in 44 countries.
… Post-war growth
During the war, 64 bottling plants were set up around the world to
supply the troops. This followed an urgent request for bottling
equipment and materials from General Eisenhower's base in North
Africa. Many of these war-time plants were later converted to civilian
use, permanently enlarging the bottling system and accelerating the
growth of the Company's worldwide business.
|1950s … Packaging innovations
For the first time, consumers had choices of Coca-Cola
package size and type-the traditional 6.5 ounce Contour Bottle, or
larger servings including 10-, 12- and 26-ounce versions. Cans were
also introduced, becoming generally available in 1960.
|1960s … New brands introduced
Sprite®, Fanta®, Fresca® and TAB® joined brand Coca-Cola
in the 1960s. Mr. Pibb® and Mello Yello® were added in the 1970s. The
1980s brought diet Coke® and Cherry Coke®, followed by Powerade® and
Fruitopia® in the 1990s. Today scores of other brands are offered to
meet consumer preferences in local markets around the world.
and '80s … Consolidation to serve customers
As technology led to a global economy, retail customers of The
Coca-Cola Company merged and evolved into international
mega-chains. Such customers required a new approach. In response, many
small and medium-size bottlers consolidated to better serve giant
international customers. The Company encouraged and invested in a
number of bottler consolidations to assure that its largest bottling
partners would have capacity to lead the system in working with global
|1990s … New and growing markets
Political and economic changes opened vast markets that were closed or
underdeveloped for decades. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the
Company invested heavily to build plants in Eastern Europe. As the
century closed, more than $1.5 billion was committed to new bottling
facilities in Africa.
|21st Century … Think local, act local
The Coca-Cola bottling system grew up with roots deeply
planted in local communities. This heritage serves the Company well
today as consumers seek brands that honor local identity and the
distinctiveness of local markets. As was true a century ago, strong
locally based relationships between Coca-Cola bottlers,
customers and communities are the foundation on which the entire