History of Coca-Cola

The cola beverage which gave rise to The Coca-Cola Company was invented in 1886, so it is perhaps no surprise that the drink and the company itself has a long and storied history.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the twists and turns of this iconic brand and how it grew into the global force it is today.

Birth in Atlanta

Addicted to morphine after being wounded in the American Civil war, Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton developed a substitute for the drug in the form of flavored syrup.

The syrup, which contained coca leaf extract and caffeine, was marketed as a patent medicine that could cure anything from nerve disorders to addiction, headaches, upset stomach, and impotence.

When some states passed prohibition legislation in the late 1800s, Pemberton also capitalized on support for the temperance movement by claiming that the drink was a healthy alternative to alcohol.

He took his concoction down the street to Jacobs’ Pharmacy where it was first sold from a soda fountain for the princely sum of 5 cents a glass.

Origins of the Coca-Cola name

The person credited for naming the soda is Frank M. Robinson, Pemberton’s partner and bookkeeper who believed that “the two Cs would look well in advertising.” 

The first ever advertisement for Coca-Cola then appeared in The Atlanta Journal with oilcloth banners also draped over shop awnings. Coupons advertising free drinks were also advertised, which was considered an innovative marketing tactic at the time. 

During the first year, sales of the drink averaged 9 servings per day.

Pemberton’s death and sale of the company

By 1888, three different versions of Coca-Cola sold by three different companies were on the market.

Soon thereafter, Pemberton became ill and was nearly bankrupt since the drink cost more to make than he was earning in revenue

He then entered into a partnership with four Atlanta businessmen to sell parts of the business.

Codified by a verbal agreement, Pemberton stated that the Coca-Cola trademark would belong to his son Charley, but the other manufacturers could use his formula.

The Coca-Cola Company was incorporated in March 1888 with Charley Pemberton a major shareholder due to his ownership of the “Coca-Cola” name.

Pemberton then succumbed to stomach cancer five months later, but before his death, he acted as a consignor for Charley who sold a 33% interest in the recipe for Coca-Cola to pharmacist Asa Griggs Candler. 

Securing control 

After Pemberton died, Candler started selling a similar drink to Coca-Cola. But since Charley Pemberton owned the rights to the name, Candler was forced to use brand names such as “Koke” and “Yum Yum” which were not popular with consumers.

While stories differ on what happened next, most believe that Candler moved swiftly to obtain greater control over the company.

One story states that Candler arrived at Pemberton’s funeral to buy the trademark from Charley’s mother for $300 cash, while another is that he tried to force two of the businessmen in Pemberton’s original partnership out of the business

However, when Charley Pemberton died of a suspected drug overdose in 1894, Candler attained sole control over the company more or less by default. 


By 1895, Coca-Cola was enjoyed across the United States with expansion into Cuba in 1899 and Europe in 1901.

Around this time, Candler sold the bottling rights to three businessmen from Tennessee who had some of the earliest technology that could bottle drinks at scale.

Candler sold the rights for just $1 and would later regret not asking for more. But with the first botting facility established in Chattanooga in 1899, he nevertheless set the company on a path to world domination in the beverage industry.

Key takeaways:

  • The cola beverage which gave rise to The Coca-Cola Company was invented in 1886, so it is perhaps no surprise that the drink and company itself has a long and storied history.
  • Addicted to morphine after being wounded in the American Civil war, Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton developed a substitute for the drug in the form of a flavored syrup that contained caffeine and coca leaf extract.
  • After a series of protracted and complex deals over the rights to the Coca-Cola trademark and recipe, Asa Griggs Candler gained control over the company after Charley Pemberton’s death in 1894. His decision to sell the bottling rights to a concern in Tennessee enabled the company to distribute bottled drinks at scale.

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Coca-Cola Business Strategy

Coca-Cola follows a business strategy (implemented since 2006) where through its operating arm – the Bottling Investment Group – it invests initially in bottling partners operations. As they take off, Coca-Cola divests its equity stakes, and it establishes a franchising model, as long-term growth and distribution strategy.

Who Owns Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola’s top investors include Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, with 9.23% of shares, and other mutual funds like The Vanguard Group, holding 7.9% of shares, and BlackRock owning over 6.45% of shares of the company. Other individual investors like Herbert A. Allen, director of The Coca-Cola Company since 1982, and Barry Diller, Chairman of the Coca-Cola board since 2002. And former CEO Muhtar Kent. 

Coca-Cola Revenue

Coca-Cola generated over $43 billion in revenue in 2022, compared to over $38 billion in 2021.

Coca-Cola Profits

Coca-Cola generated $9.54 billion in net profits in 2022. Compared to over $9.7 billion in net profits in 2021.

Coca-Cola Revenue vs. Profits

Coca-Cola generated over $43 billion in revenue in 2022 and over $9.5 billion in net profits.

Coca-Cola Mission Statement

Coca-Cola’s Purpose is to “refresh the world. make a difference.” Its vision and mission are to “craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better-shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities, and our planet.”

Coca-Cola SWOT Analysis

Coca-Cola is the market leader of the soft drink industry. It is also the most widely recognized brand, with a Business Insider study revealing that a staggering 94% of the world population recognizes the red and white logo. However, Coca-Cola faces significant challenges with increasingly health-conscious consumers and less access to water resources.

Coca-Cola PESTEL Analysis


What Does Coca-Cola Own?

The Coca-Cola Company is an American multinational beverage corporation founded in 1892 by pharmacist Asa Griggs Candler. Many consumers associate the company with its signature soda in a red can or bottle. In truth, however, The Coca-Cola Company owns a plethora of soft drink, juice, tea, coffee, and other beverage brands. 

Coca-Cola Competitors

The Coca-Cola Company has 21 different billion-dollar brands or brands that generate more than $1 billion or more in revenue each year.  The company also sells its products in nearly every country in the world, with Cuba and North Korea the only two countries where it is not sold officially. What’s more, the Coca-Cola brand is worth $87.6 billion, making it one of the most valuable among all companies. Though these figures allow Coca-Cola to enjoy market dominance in many countries, the company is nevertheless subject to intense competition.

Coca-Cola vs. PepsiCo

Coca-Cola generated over $38 billion in revenue, compared to PepsiCo’s over $79 billion. 

What Does PepsiCo Own?

PepsiCo was founded in 1902 by American pharmacist and businessman Caleb Bradham as the Pepsi-Cola Company. Bradham, who hoped to emulate the success of Coca-Cola, marketed the beverage from his pharmacy and registered a patent for its recipe the following year. Today, Pepsi is a global company with a portfolio of 23 billion-dollar brands, or brands earning more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Sixteen of these brands are beverage-related, while the remaining seven are associated with snacks and other food products.

Pepsi Competitors

In 1965, PepsiCo acquired Frito-Lay in what the chairmen of both companies called a “marriage made in heaven”. The resultant company transformed PepsiCo from a soft drink organization and set it on a path to becoming one of the world’s leading food and beverage companies.  Today, PepsiCo claims to operate in more than 200 countries and territories around the world with seven distinct divisions and many successful brands.

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