The Quick 10: Happy Birthday, Coca-Cola!
I am deeply thankful to Dr. John Pemberton, who invented Coca-Cola this week back in 1886. To celebrate this great creation (speaking as a Diet Coke addict, that is), today's Q10 is dedicated to the delightful product. And if any Coke executives are reading this and want to reward me with a lifetime supply, you can contact Jason English for my address. No? Oh well. It was worth a shot.
1. The original intent of Coca-Cola, as you probably know, was a health drink. It was sold for five cents at soda fountains (a dollar or so in today's money) because people thought carbonated beverages would increase their wellness. Pemberton's company also sold Pemberton's Indian Queen Hair Dye and Pemberton's Globe Flower Cough Syrup.
2. If it wasn't for prohibition, it's possible that we wouldn't be enjoying the good Dr. Pemberton's invention today. Before peddling Coca Cola at soda foundations, Pemberton was hawking "Pemberton's French Wine Coca," a nerve tonic, stimulant and headache remedy. In response to an Atlanta Prohibition law passed in 1886, Pemberton replaced the wine with sugar and Coca-Cola was born. The law was repealed in 1887, and Coca-Cola was sold to Asa Candler so Pemberton could refocus on his French Wine Coca.
3. Dr. Pemberton didn't live to see the commercial success of his product, nor did he get to see it as anything other than a health drink. He died in 1888, just five months after he had filed to incorporate Coca-Cola Co.
4. It's true: Coca-Cola did once contain cocaine. It was back in the day when heroin was a pain reliever sold by Bayer, so this isn't nearly as shocking as it sounds. But it's not like people drank the beverage to get a buzz (at least, not that kind of a buzz) "“ although we can't account for the amount of coke in Coke in the really early days, we do know that by 1902, 1/400th of a grain of cocaine per ounce of syrup was used. And by 1929 it had been eliminated altogether.
5. The name of the drink comes from its main ingredients at the time it was first produced: the coca leaf and the kola nut. The only reason we don't drink Coca-Kola is because Pemberton's business partner, Frank Robinson, thought the double C's would "look well in advertising." He was right, of course"¦ just ask Coco Chanel. Robinson was also responsible for Coke's script-y (Spencerian is the actual term) font.
6. Have you ever heard the myth that only two people in the entire world know the formula for Coke? Supposedly, two executives at Coca-Cola each know half of the recipe, ensuring that no one will ever know the whole thing and be able to sell the recipe. It's a nice story, but it's not true. The entire formula is kept in a bank vault in Atlanta, and more than two employees are familiar with it. They have to sign nondisclosure agreements before the secret is revealed to them, however.
7. This is one of those rare urban legends that turned out to be true "“ a risquÃ© message was hidden in a Coke advertisement in the "˜80s, unbeknownst to the company. The artist hired to create the poster managed to sneak in an image of a woman's head precariously close to a penis. Thousands of posters had been distributed before some astute Australian noticed the image on the side of a Coca-Cola truck and reported it to the red-faced company, who claimed they were merely victims of an irresponsible practical joke. All "artwork" was recalled and the company promptly sued the artist. You can read about the whole thing (and see the picture) on Snopes.
8. Maybe it's not too surprising that Coca-Cola was the first-ever commercial sponsor of the Olympic games. The famous logo first showed up at the 1928 games in Amsterdam and has been there ever since.
9. Ever wonder what the difference really is between Coke and Pepsi? The basic answer is that Pepsi is sweeter, which is why people tend to prefer Pepsi in a blind taste test. But we have the details here.
10. How big of a flop was New Coke? Actually, not as big as you would think. People really did prefer the taste of New Coke "“ it was the whole idea of changing such a classic drink that the public was upset about. After all, Coke had used the same formula for 99 years. You don't mess with longevity like that, apparently, because the backlash was immediate and furious. New Coke was replaced by the original formula, now called "Coke Classic," just 79 days after its debut. The chairman and CEO of Coke at the time, Robert Goizueta, refused to admit that New Coke tasted bad, even after receiving a letter addressed to "Chief Dodo, The Coca-Cola Company." Goizueta acquiesced to the public's demands, of course, but he himself continued to drink New Coke until his death. He even held a company celebration for the 10-year anniversary of the drink.
So "“ are you as thankful for Dr. Pemberton as I am? Or are you a Pepsi person? Maybe you agree with Mr. Goizueta and his assessment that New Coke was the best invention ever. Let us know your preferences in the comments!