The history of the coca-cola formula

Knowing Robert Woodruff - CEO of Coca-Cola company

The  crowded room was buzzing with anticipation. Robert "The Boss" Woodruff, President of Coca-Cola, had called a meeting of his entire sales force. The Boss strode in, a cigar clenched between his teeth. Minutes later his staff were filing out in stunned silence. They had all been fired - but the next day, Woodruff reinstated each and every member of the sales force as "servicemen," whose job was not just to sell Coca-Cola syrup, but also to install machinery at soda fountains, train retailers in dispensing techniques and give advice at the bottling plants.

A secret formula is born

Coca-Cola began life in a backyard in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1885 when Dr. John Styth Pemberton, a pharmacist, concocted his own version of a tonic called Vin Mariani - a mixture of red wine and coca leaves.

The following year, the doctor altered his formula and mixed the coca leaves with extract of cola nut, sugar, and certain flavourings which he kept secret. One Saturday in early May, 1886, he went down to his local soda fountain with a jug of the syrupy concoction and mixed it with plain water, then sold the drink for 5 cents a glass. Early the next year carbonated water was used by mistake - and was found to make the beverage even more refreshing.

During the first year of sales, an average of about 13 glasses of the drink a day were sold. Before his death in 1888, Pemberton gradually sold off his business to various partners, including Asa Candler, a dynamic businessman. By 1891, Candler had acquired the sole right to manfacture the syrup. He sold it through wholesalers to soda fountains operators, who mixed it with carbonated water. A year later he formed the Coca-Cola Company in Georgia and in 1893, registered the trademark - using the script originally penned by Pemberton's bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, in 1886.

In 1895, Candler claimed that "Coca-Cola is now sold nd drunk in every state and territory in the United States." Advertisements and incentives, such as clocks, urns and fans, sustained his claim.

Big bucks in every bottle

But Candler missed a trick. In 1899 he sold the exclusive rights to bottle Coca-Cola to two Tennessee attorneys, Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whiteland, for just one dollar. By 1920 there were more than 1,000 bottling plants across the United States.

After Robert Woodruff took over the company in 1923, the bottle was sold in petrol stations, cinemas, parks and shops. By 1929, bottling operations in Mexico, China and all over Europe were in profit: an empire had been born.