Coca-Cola Company, The

Coca-Cola Company, The

▪ American company
      American corporation founded in 1892 and today engaged primarily in the manufacture and sale of syrup and concentrate for Coca-Cola, a sweetened, carbonated beverage that is a cultural institution in the United States and a symbol around the world of American tastes. The company also produces and sells other soft drinks and citrus beverages. Corporate headquarters are in Atlanta, Ga.

      The drink Coca-Cola was originated in 1886 by an Atlanta pharmacist, John S. Pemberton (1831–88), at his Pemberton Chemical Company; his bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, chose the name for the drink and penned it in the flowing script that became the Coca-Cola trademark. Pemberton originally touted his drink as a tonic for most common ailments, basing it on cocaine from the coca leaf and caffeine-rich extracts of the kola nut. (The cocaine was removed from Coca-Cola's formula in 1905.) He sold his syrup to local soda fountains, and, with advertising, the drink became phenomenally successful. By 1891 another Atlanta pharmacist, Asa Griggs Candler (Candler, Asa Griggs) (1851–1929), had secured complete ownership of the business (for a total cash outlay of $2,300 and the exchange of some proprietary rights), and he incorporated the Coca-Cola Company the following year.

      Under Candler's leadership, sales rose from about 9,000 gallons of syrup in 1890 to 370,877 gallons in 1900, and during the decade syrup-making plants were established in Dallas, Texas, and in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, selling in every U.S. state and territory and to Canada. In 1899 the Coca-Cola Company signed its first agreement with an independent bottling company, which was allowed to buy the syrup and produce, bottle, and distribute the Coca-Cola drink. Such licensing agreements formed the basis of a unique distribution system that now characterizes most of the American soft-drink industry.

      Capitalized at $100,000 in 1892 upon incorporation, the Coca-Cola Company was sold in 1919 for $25,000,000 to a group of investors led by Atlanta businessman Ernest Woodruff, whose son, Robert Winship Woodruff, as president and chairman, guided the company for three decades (1923–55).

      The post-World War II years saw diversification in the packaging of Coca-Cola and also in the development or acquisition of new products. In 1946 the company purchased rights to the Fanta soft drink, previously developed in Germany. It introduced the lemon-lime drink Sprite in 1961 and the sugar-free cola Tab in 1963. By purchase of Minute Maid Corporation in 1960, it entered the citrus beverage market. In 1982 the company acquired a controlling interest in Columbia Pictures (Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc.), a motion-picture and entertainment company, but sold its interest to Sony Corporation in 1989.

      The trademark “Coca-Cola” was registered in the U.S. Patent Office in 1893; the trademark “Coke” (first used in advertising in 1941) was registered in 1945; the contoured Coca-Cola bottle (introduced in 1916) was registered in 1960.

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Universalium. 2010.

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