No one usually asks interns what they think.
But this summer as a media relations intern I was asked for my take on which business decisions over the last 130 years transformed Coca-Cola from a start-up beverage served in a small Atlanta pharmacy to one of the world’s most recognisable brands.
Want more? Lifting the lid on brand design at Coca-Cola
So I read the book widely regarded as the definitive published history of The Coca-Cola Company Fredrick Allen’s Secret Formula.
Here’s my take on the top 10.
1886-1940s: Coke for a Nickel
To ensure Coca-Cola was affordable and available everywhere the company’s earliest leaders held the price of a Coke to five cents for more than 50 years.
This steady price contributed to increasing consumer demand for the product, which in turn caused bottlers to buy more syrup to produce the product.
1894: Invention of the Sample Coupon
1899: Birth of the Coca-Cola System
In 1899 the bottling rights for Coca-Cola were sold by then company owner Asa Candler – a businessman who went on to become mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, where the company is headquartered, from 1916-1919 – for $1, forming what today is known as the Coca-Cola system.
A franchise partnership between The Coca-Cola Company and more than 250 bottlers worldwide, this system has extended Coca-Cola’s reach far beyond what Candler ever imagined now with sales in more than 200 countries.
1915: Launch of the Iconic ‘Contour’ Bottle
To confront imitation products Coca-Cola challenged glass companies to create a new bottle design that was so distinct it could still be recognised easily when broken on the ground or by touch in the dark.
Want more? 11 Facts About the Coca-Cola Bottle
1940s: Coca-Cola During Wartime
During World War II, a group of employees known as “Technical Observers” were dispatched with the United States Army to set up, supervise and monitor the operations of bottling units that would distribute Coca-Cola to US troops abroad.
The purchase of The Minute Maid Corporation in 1960 marked the company’s first venture outside of carbonated beverages. This investment was a key step for Coca‑Cola expanding and diversifying its portfolio in the years to follow.
Since then, The Coca-Cola Company has grown to offer more than 3800 drinks across a wide range of categories.
1982: Diet Coke
In the late 1970s Coca-Cola began developing a new drink that would reignite cola sales and satisfy an increasing consumer appetite for low-calorie drinks. In 1982 to great fanfare the company introduced Diet Coke as the first extension of the Coca-Cola trademark.
It was a move that would prompt the company to take risks by introducing unique new drinks to meet consumers’ changing needs in the years to come.
1985: New Coke
In an attempt to revitalise the cola market in 1985, The Coca-Cola Company made the first formula change to Coca-Cola in 99 years.
Late 1990s-early 2000s: Becoming a Total Beverage Company
In the late 1990s a transformation from sparkling beverage company to “total beverage company” was on the cards with several early product launches quickly capturing the growing consumer market for non-carbonated drinks.
Today The Coca-Cola Company offers regular and low-kilojoule soft drinks as well as waters, sports drinks, energy drinks, teas and flavoured milk.
Now and into the Future: Keeping Up with Consumer Trends
As consumers continue to demand new and exciting beverage choices around the world, the company is finding new ways to tap into growing trends by taking ownership positions in fast-growing beverage brands.
All the while the company continues to develop it sparkling beverage options, including continued growth of its original and most loved brand Coca-Cola.
More on Journey
- Coca-Cola Journey Turns 4: International Editors Mark Milestone
- Trace the 130-year Evolution of the Coca-Cola logo
- Coca-Cola Slogans through the Years
- A Little Piece of History: Coca-Cola has Auctioned off the Original Kings Cross Sign Letters for Charity
- The Making of "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke"