In 1917, an accountant in Perth sought the rights to produce Coca-Cola in Australia. But it wasn’t until 21 years later, in 1937, that The Coca-Cola Company sent a team to Australia to set up a production facility.
The first bottle rolled off the line in a small building on the corner of Crescent and Dowling Streets in Waterloo, Sydney. It all rested on the shoulders of just ten staff and a fleet of four trucks. The early days for Coca-Cola in Australia were not easy. The capital city markets were small by international standards, and geographically separated. It was also an unknown product, initially sold to indifferent shopkeepers by the bottle – literally.
A former Coca-Cola salesman from Adelaide, Bob Jemison, recalled vigorously persuading a shopkeeper to take a single bottle. The following week, he talked the shopkeeper into taking two bottles. By 1939 plants were operating all across Australia – just in time for the outbreak of war. In 1943, a turning point arrived when President of The Coca-Cola Company, R. W. Woodruff decided to make Coca-Cola available to all US service men and women, wherever they were, whatever the cost. Australian plants supplied not only Americans but Australian service men and women as well, from urban bases to ‘jungle units’ stationed in the Pacific theatre. During the war the small Coca-Cola plant in Brisbane became the focus of this operation, with manufacturing often running 24 hours a day to service the United States South Pacific headquarters, also located in Brisbane.