Coca-Cola is widely known as being a symbol of America. It was created by Dr. John Pemberton, a famous physician in the 1800s. But do you know how Coca Cola was made?
When the CIVIL WAR hit, he tossed away his lab coat for a button uniform and joined the army.
After getting caught in a direct line of fire, he was given a life-threatening drug to ease the pain for his last few hours.
But he miraculously survived and used his near-death experience to build Coca-Cola’s $74 billion dollar brand.
THE PHARMACIST – TURNED – WAR VETERAN – 53 Years before Coca-Cola was invented.
In 1831, John was born in the small town of Knoxville and raised in Rome, Georgia.
When he was 19 years old he received his license to practice THOMSONIAN MEDICINE.
It was known to use the principles of BOTANY and HERBALISM to rid the body of harmful toxins.
At the time it wasn’t well respected and many were suspicious of the practice.
But that didn’t stop John from opening a business that specializes in MATERIA MEDICA. [Substances that were used to make medical remedies]
A few years later John pursued a more conventional path and earned a graduate degree in pharmacy from MEDICAL COLLEGE OF GEORGIA, AUGUSTA, GA.
But not long after, he was forced to ditch his white lab coat for a button uniform.
The CIVIL WAR had erupted and John was made a first lieutenant.
Three years into battle in 1865, he got caught in a direct line of fire and was slashed with a saver.
His doctors didn’t think he would live and gave him MORPHINE to ease the pain for his last few hours.
But he proved them wrong and miraculously survived.
From then on it was only a matter of time until John was back on his feet.
INNOVATE OR DIE – 23 Years before Coca-Cola was sold in every U.S. state.
When the smoke of the civil war cleared John strived for a better life.
He moved his family to Atlanta and became a senior member of a pharmaceutical firm in Pemberton, Wilson, Taylor & Co. Dallas, TX.
The media called it “one of the most impressive labs in the U.S.” and John became known as “the most famous physician in Atlanta.”
But behind closed doors John was struggling, after his near-death experience, he became addicted to MORPHINE.
With no cure in sight for what had become a daily habit, he looked for an herbal remedy.
At the time he heard good things about a drink called VIN MARIANI.
It contained ground up coca leaves and red wine and was said to heal any ailment.
That gave John the idea of making his own version to cure his morphine addiction.
Using COCA LEAVES, RED WINE, and KOLA NUTS he created what he called PEMBERTON’S FRENCH WINE COCA.
Coca leaves were known to act as a stimulant and suppress hunger, thirst, fatigue, and pain.
While one leaf contained 0.35% of cocaine, it was easy to get in the U.S.
Some doctors and pharmacists reported that “it’s a possible cure for opium and morphine addictions.”
As for cola nuts they were high in caffeine and known to aid digestion.
John believed his French wine coca could not only cure addictions but DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, and different ailments including HEADACHES.
To help other war veterans he set up a distribution network to sell his remedy.
He would make the syrup in his lab and then ship it to partners and contractors who could sell it as they liked.
The remedy was an instant hit and used by many.
But the demand alone wasn’t enough to keep the business going.
John was faced with a challenge that forced him to pivot his new business. Leading to the invention of Coca-Cola.
A DISASTROUS FUTURE – 19 Years before annual sales of Coca-Cola reached $1 million.
1885 – The year that Pemberton’s French wine coca hit the market.
Atlanta announced they would be joining other U.S. states in banning alcohol.
Fearful that it would mean the end of his new remedy John raced to come up with a new formula.
When he removed the wine he realized the cola nuts made it extremely bitter.
So, he replaced it with synthetic caffeine and then added SUGAR, CITRIC ACID, VANILLA, LEMON OIL, and ORANGE, NUTMEG, & CORIANDER EXTRACTS.
Afterward, John’s bookkeeper Frank Robinson suggested he changed the name to COCA-KOLA.
However, he insisted that it be spelled with two C’s since it would look more eye-catching.
John took his advice and launched his new remedy, COCA-COLA a year later in 1886.
It was a total disaster.
The first year of sales topped off at $50 with a sunken cost of $70 in supplies.
John saw this as a failure, meanwhile Frank saw it differently.
“The loss was to be expected since the business was new.”
His optimism led to coming up with another brilliant idea, marketing the remedy through banners, streetcar placards, and store awnings.
John was hesitant but Frank convinced them it was a risk worth taking.
Fortunately, he wasn’t wrong Coca-Cola became a hit through Atlanta.
John and Frank prove that when faced with a challenge tackling it instead of giving up can lead to new heights of success.
FORCED TO SELL – 33 Years before Coca-Cola expanded to Europe.
In a strange twist of fate, John’s health dwindled as Coca-Cola sails heightened.
He was diagnosed with STOMACH CANCER and relapsed to ease the pain.
Worried that money for his family and addiction would run dry, he made the difficult decision of selling shares of the business.
But that didn’t mean he had little expectations for the future of Coca-Cola.
He believed it would become a national drink one day and kept a third of his shares for his son Charles.
At the time, Charles was in charge of manufacturing but later became a morphine addict himself.
Frank feared that Coca-Cola would have no one to steer John’s vision of going national.
So he took on the responsibility of finding the right investor as John remained bedridden.
Through a business contact, he met a wealthy and hardworking entrepreneur named ASA CANDLER.
When Frank approached him, he told him that he didn’t think that Coca-Cola was a worthwhile venture, But Frank knew better.
While the two stood outside one day, Frank pointed to a Wagon and said “see that wagon going by with all those empty beer kegs? Well, we are going to push Coca-Cola until you see wagons going by with Coca-Cola just like that.”
Asa was swayed by the company’s vision and bought the rights to the Coca-Cola name and secret formula.
And just as Frank predicted, he wasted no time in building the company.
He not only expanded sales to more pharmacies and grocery stores but came up with an idea that made history.
He gave out little slips of paper that could be redeemed for a glass of Coca-Cola at soda fountains.
At the time, they were considered a popular hangout spot and where many went to socialize.
It was the first instance in history where a company gave out what is now called coupons for free samples.
John’s vision for Coca-Cola was the key to instilling faith among his employees and later the man who would help build its brand.
JOHN’S LAST WISH – 31 Years before Coca-Cola went public.
Sadly, John never did see his entire vision unfold.
Two years after Asa started to grow the company, he succumbed to his morphine addiction and died pennilessly.
With Charles zone addiction worsening, Asa took over and founded the Coca-Cola Company.
He led the expansion of selling Coca-Cola to every U.S. state and then Canada.
But he failed to create the demand in Europe.
In Germany, anything other than beer, wine, or water was considered for children.
Whereas in France, buying an inferior American drink was considered insulting.
Asa was also short-sighted when it came to an idea that fell into his lap.
One day two lawyers named JOSEPH WHITEHEAD AND BENJAMIN THOMAS walked into Asa’s office.
Coca-Cola is already successful as a fountain drink, but what if it was bottled they proposed? “BOTTLED?”
Asa asked what a puzzle looked like, “yes, sir. Folks could take them home.”
Asa thought it was a ridiculous idea, he believed the future of Coca-Cola was in fountain drinks.
Bottling was an expensive operation that he wanted no part of.
He told joseph and Benjamin that “they could bottle all the Coca-Cola they wanted for just one dollar.”
He had nothing to lose since if they succeeded they would SELL MORE SYRUP and if they failed HE WOULDN’T LOSE A PENNY.
Afterward, Joseph and Benjamin found other people to finance and build an operation to bottle Coca-Cola.
It became one of the first franchising businesses in America.
To Asa’s surprise customers were hooked on Coca-Cola bottles.
It became so popular that competitors tried to create their own version.
Eventually, the Coca-Cola Company decided to create something more unique that was difficult to copy, A CONTOUR BOTTLE.
That way customers would know they were getting the real product.
Years later in 1926, the amount of Coca-Cola sold in bottles exceeded the number sold through soda fountains.
Joseph and Benjamin’s so-called ridiculous idea inspired Coca-Cola’s iconic packaging and paved the way for its continued success.
CONQUERING THE WORLD – 74 years before annual sales reached over $1 billion.
The year after Coca-Cola developed its contour bottle in 1916, Asa resigned from the company.
He was elected the mayor of Atlanta and handed the company over to his children.
Three years later in 1919, they sold it for 25 million dollars to a group of investors.
At the time it was the biggest financial deal in the history of the American south.
One of the investors behind the deal was a banker named ERNEST WOODRUFF, who took the company public that year.
He streamlined Coca-Cola’s production process and ensured quality was maintained when produced anywhere.
Not long after, he retired and convinced his son Robert to become the president of the company.
ROBERT WOODRUFF was a marketing genius who worked his way up from being a TRUCK SALESMAN to a GENERAL MANAGER before joining.
Under his leadership, the company removed the tiny amounts of cocaine from the formula.
Afterward, it launched metal top open coolers, six-bottle packs, and automatic fountain dispensers.
It also succeeded in taking care of Asa’s unfinished business, creating the demand for Coca-Cola in Europe.
The company advertised gave away and sold Coca-Cola all over Europe as a fun, refreshing import.
Some bottles were green with a gold foil seal to resemble champagne magnums.
They also created an association with many historical and celebratory events.
When the U.S. Olympic team travelled to Amsterdam for the 1928 Olympic Games, they gave away 40,000 bottles of Coca-Cola.
And when World War II erupted, they swore that every American soldier would be able to get a Coca-Cola wherever the war took them.
They also created the modern image of Santa Claus, a jolly man in a red suit.
Before he was seen as a lean man in a red, green, or brown suit.
Today Coca-Cola is closely associated with American culture and is known as a national symbol.
It’s also the second most recognized brand in the world behind Nike.
Every day nearly 2 billion servings of its drinks are served in more than 200 countries.
Before Robert retired from Coca-Cola, he kept a paperweight on his desk that read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”
This is the story of how a pharmacist turned war veteran and his successors built Coca-Cola’s 74 billion dollar brand.