Food - Drinks
By: - at March 27, 2015

15 Little Known Facts About Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola is one of the oldest, largest and most successful multinational corporations. Recent sales data shows total revenue figures that surpass $45 billion and net income exceeding $8 billion year after year. Marketing experts applaud Coke's unsurpassed brand notoriety and today Coca-Cola stands as perhaps the world's most recognized brand. The company and its success evoke a wide range of emotions that depend on who you ask and what country they live in.

foreign coke

Some love their products and see the company's ability to cross international borders as a positive aspect. Others see it as a form of geopolitical dominance and as just a another way American culture is permeating the far corners of the world. Regardless of how people may feel about the corporation, Coca-Cola’s story is indeed an interesting one. The company's humble beginnings can be traced back to the year 1886 when pharmacist Dr. John S. Pemberton, through simple curiosity, developed the first version of Coke that was available for purchase.

John Pemberton
John Pemberton

Over the years a number of interesting and surprising facts about the company have emerged.

15)  The Very First Coca-Cola Outdoor Advertisement Is Still Around
The very first ever Coca-Cola billboard dates way back to the 1800s. It was in 1894 when a Coke salesperson James Couden had a Coca-Cola sign painted on a wall of the Young Brothers Pharmacy. Despite the historical significance of the ad, it was ultimately painted over numerous times in the years that followed.

young brothers pharmacy coke

Realizing the cultural relevance of the advert, the original billboard was restored. This involved the painstaking process of removing the numerous layers of paint that had covered it. This was finally achieved in 1990. A total of 25 layers of paint had to be removed, before the original ad was finally revealed.

young's pharmacy coke

14)  Even Diet Coke Outsells Pepsi
The war between the Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi has been well documented throughout the years. In 2009, the battle took an unusual and unexpected turn, when sales of Diet Coke began competing with the sales of regular Pepsi.

diet coke can

Traditionally, Diet Coke has been considered an inferior product to regular Coke. It was a product designed specifically for health conscious customers, who were willing to sacrifice quality for health. With this in mind, Diet Coke was never expected to really compete with regular Pepsi.


Still, in 2009 sales for Diet Coke were equal to those of regular Pepsi. The following year, Diet Coke actually outsold regular Pepsi.

Historically, Coke has always been ahead of Pepsi in terms of sales. In fact, people typically buy twice as much Coca-Cola every year than Pepsi. 2010 was the first time that even Diet Coke dominated Pepsi. For whatever reason, Pepsi has never been able to come remotely close to the kind of popularity Coke has always enjoyed.

13)  Coke Zero and Diet Coke Are the Same Basic Drink
The Coca-Cola Company has tried a number of new lines of drinks over the years. Usually, the lines feature the addition of a specific flavoring. Some of the most notable lines include Vanilla Coke and Lime Coke. Although these experimental lines typically prove to be great novelties, they are rarely success stories. Of the alternate Coke lines, two of the most popular ones that ultimately became regular lines are Diet Coke and Coke Zero. Perhaps the success of the lines, where others have failed, is due to the fact that very little separates the two drinks.

coke zero

In reality, although Diet Coke and Coke Zero are marketed quite differently, the ingredients for the two products are almost exactly the same. The only difference between the lines is the sweeteners used for either product. Ironically, one of the biggest differences between the two lines is that the average serving size of Diet Coke has more calories than Coke Zero.

diet coke

Besides the different sweeteners used and the slight difference in the calorie count, the biggest difference in the products is really just the marketing. Diet Coke has always been targeted towards health conscious women. With the increased emphasis on men’s health over the past decade, Coke Zero was released in order to corner the market for men concerned about their weight. Basically, the Coca-Cola Company realized that men were typically unwilling to be seen drinking Diet Coke.

12)  Coca-Cola Was the Biggest Company in the World
Since branching out into the international market, Coca-Cola has been a huge global brand. The company was so big that it managed to reach the heights of being the world’s biggest company.

Coca-Cola Headquarters in Atlanta, GA
Coca-Cola Headquarters
By Autiger from Wikimedia Commons

It wasn’t until the late 2000s that the Coca-Cola Company’s dominance in the marketplace slipped. The search engine Google and department store chain Wal-Mart managed to overtake Coke in the market.

11)  Coke Had a Curvy Can
In 1997, the Coca-Cola Company introduced a contoured aluminum can. The can was specifically designed to echo the iconic design of the signature curvy Coke bottles. The designers had hoped that the can would prove to be just as iconic as the bottle and significantly distinguish it from the other soda cans on the market.

stylish coke

The idea never eventuated, though. The can was briefly released into the market. However, the Coca-Cola Company ultimately opted against introducing the distinctive cans permanently.

10)  Coke Had an Unusual Problem Launching Their Product in China
It was back in 1928 when Coke was released in China. Before the Coca-Cola Company could launch the product, though, they had to do some serious research. They had to carefully consider the inherent dangers of the name of their product being lost in translation. Specifically, the Coca-Cola Company had to find a way for their unique name to be represented through characters of the Mandarin language.

chinese billboard

The company had 200 different Chinese characters to choose from. There objective was to find characters that would be pronounced “coca-cola” and actually mean something positive. The problem was that the combination of characters that made up the name Coca-Cola didn’t make sense.

chinese coke

Consequently, numerous Chinese shopkeepers came up with their own combinations of characters to produce the company name. Many of the combinations were intentionally inappropriate. In a number of cases, the drink was likened to wax. Ultimately, the Coca-Cola Company landed on a combination of characters that roughly translated to describe Coke as a drink that made a person’s mouth rejoice.

9)  Only Two Coca-Cola Executives Know the Recipe for Coke
There is a popular myth that has circulated for years that there are only two executives of the Coca-Cola Company that know the secret ingredients to the Coke recipe. The myth has it that each of the executives only know half of the recipe. This is to ensure that no one person could ever release the entire secret recipe to the public or competitors.

The rumor isn’t true, but there is actually some truth to the story. The truth is that there are only two executives who know the true recipe. They both know the recipe in full and the recipe is kept in a vault.

Muhtar Kent (Coke Chief) Inside the Vault
coca cola vault

In reality, the reason that the company has this unique policy probably has more to do with self promotion than anything else. Even if competitors did get a hold of Coke’s recipe, people would still buy Coke because it is the brand that people buy not the drink itself. The policy of the two executive is really just about hyping the product as being something super special.

8)  Coca-Cola Isn’t the Best Selling Soda Everywhere
It goes without saying that Coca-Cola is incredibly popular. In fact, it is the most popular soda in the world. Still, it isn’t the best selling soda in every country, though. It is the second best selling soda in Scotland. Coca-Cola certainly is popular in Scotland. It just isn’t the most popular soda in the country. Rather, it’s a very close second to a local brand of soda called Irn-Bru. The history of Irn-Bru goes back more than a hundred years. It is known and loved throughout the UK.


The Middle East is another area in world where Coca-Cola isn’t the best selling soda. Rather, Pepsi is. The reason for this has to do with politics. Coca-Cola wasn’t originally available in Israel. This led to accusations that Coke was anti-Semitic. Consequently, Coke was boycotted by Jewish-Americans. In response to the criticism, Coke opened a plant in Tel Aviv in 1966. However, the company was then boycotted by the Arab League. Consequently, Pepsi took over the Middle East market – all except the Israeli market.

isreali flag

The Arab League’s boycott of Coke lasted until 1991. By the time the boycott ended, Pepsi well and truly had the market in the Middle East cornered. Coke has since made some impact in the Middle East. They have won over a significant number of customers in the area. Still, the Middle East is the only place in the world where Pepsi is well and truly on top of the market.

7)  Coca-Cola Campaigned Against Water
Over the years, the Coca-Cola Company has had a number of unique campaigns to encourage people to consume their product. Sometimes the strategies have been on the unusual side. One of the most unusual campaigns was their H2NO campaign, which saw the company take on water.

bottled water
By Brett Weinstein from Wikimedia Commons

Back in 2001 the Coca-Cola Company set about convincing restaurant customers who would typically just want water to drink to have Coke instead. The H2NO campaign involved the Coca-Cola Company instructing restaurant waiters to convince people to order Coke to drink. The campaign even involved Coke training waiters in the art of suggestive selling techniques.

The campaign came about because the Olive Garden restaurant chain had been having issues with most of their customers simply wanting water to drink with their meals. When the Coca-Cola Company heard of this problem, they saw a potential win-win situation.

olive garden
By Anthony92931 via Wikimedia Commons

The campaign actually proved to be quite successful. At least, it was until news broke of the campaign through the New York Times. At this point the Coca-Cola Company withdrew the campaign from the restaurant chain.

6)  Coca-Cola Invented a Vending Machine that Increased Prices On Hot Days
Like any successful business, the Coca-Cola Company has always looked into any and every possible way that they could turn a profit. One particularly inventive way that the company considered was through specially made vending machines. These machines would have fluctuating prices for the drinks inside.

vending machine

When the temperature outside was cold, the drinks inside would be relatively cheap, as demand for the beverages would be low. When it was a hot day, though, the prices for the drinks inside would skyrocket. Basically, the prices for the drinks would increase with the demand for the products, given that vending machines make most of their money on hot days.

vending machine robot

It was 1999 when news of these special vending machines came to light. It was revealed that the company had in fact been considering the idea for a number of years. Although the company perfected the technology, it was never introduced.

5)  Coca-Cola Has Been Consumed and Even Manufactured in Space
On the 12th July, 1985, the astronauts onboard the space shuttle Challenger made history – when they opened and drank a can of Coca-Cola. The occasion marked the very first time in history that a can of soda had been consumed in space.

Coca-Cola Space Dispenser
Coca-Cola Space Dispenser

The drink in question was a specially made can that was known as the Coca-Cola Space Can. Pepsi had produced a specially made can for use in space, too. However, Coke’s can was selected for the honor of being the first soda can opened and consumed in space.

The event came about after a surprisingly long and expensive period of development. Ultimately, the can cost the Coca-Cola Company around a quarter of a million dollars to produce. Despite the amount of time and money invested in the project, the Coca-Cola Space Can proved to be quite disappointing. Due to the lack of gravity in space, coupled with the fact that the can was subjected to insufficient refrigeration, the drink was found to be extremely fizzy and warm. Pepsi’s can was also a disappointment for the same reasons.

The Coca-Cola Company wasn’t dejected by the less than impressive results of the space can, though. They continued with research into ways that astronauts could enjoy their product in space. In 1995, the company developed the Fluids Generic Bio-processing Apparatus 1 (FGBA-1). The invention was a specially made drink dispenser that enabled astronauts to drink either Coke or Diet Coke at their leisure.

The invention worked by dispensing Coke into a specially made cup, which was similar to the design used for the Space Can. The cup kept the drink’s carbonation and liquid from separating. To address the issue of refrigeration, the invention was fitted with special cooling coils between the storage container and the dispenser. This cooled the liquid as it was used, rather than having refrigeration constantly running.

As impressive as the FGBA-1 was, the Coca-Cola Company attempted to improve the design with the development of the FGBA-2 in 1996. The invention was intended to actual produce soda in space. The invention was designed to keep water, flavored syrup and carbon dioxide separate, until an astronaut wanted a drink. When the astronauts wanted a drink, the machine would combine the elements to produce the beverage.


Ultimately, the FGBA-2 was a failure, as the drinks that resulted consisted largely of foam. Nevertheless, the FGBA-1 still serves as a sound drink dispenser. Furthermore, chances are that the Coca-Cola Company is still hard at work on yet another way for astronauts to enjoy Coke while in space.

4)  Coca-Cola Used to Contain Beef
Coke first hit the market in 1886 but it wasn’t officially considered kosher until 1935. This is because the original recipe for the drink actually had beef tallow in it. Orthodox Rabbi Tobias Geffen was the first person to notice this. He had been investigating whether the drink’s ingredients were Kosher-friendly. His investigation ultimately led him to have an inadvertent yet significant influence on the recipe for Coke.

After receiving a number of letters from Jewish immigrants in regards to whether Coca-Cola was kosher and therefore fine for them to consume, Geffen looked into the matter. He soon found that the original recipe for Coke included glycerine made from beef tallow.

Tallow-Beef Suet After Being Rendered
Tallow-Beef Suet
By FotoosvanRobin via Wikimedia Commonsc

Geffen told the company that the food was unsuitable for Jewish community members. The Coca-Cola Company responded by setting about finding a substitute. They soon found that glycerin could be produced from coconut and cottonseed oil. They have since continued with the alternate ingredient.

3)  Coke Classic Is Not the Original Coke Flavor
The Coca-Cola Company has enjoyed great success over the years. Typically, most of the company’s business decisions have proved to be enormously successful and often brilliant business moves. However, in 1985 the company made a huge error in judgment when they stopped producing the original Coke and introduced in its place the “New Coke”.

new coke

Rather than a successful move, New Coke was a huge failure. Loyal Coke drinkers united in their disgust at the new flavor. Within three months of releasing New Coke, the Coca-Cola Company took the product off the market, due to the enormous backlash. They then released “Coke Classic”.

coca cola classic

Upon Coke Classic’s release, sales for the product skyrocketed as Coke fans bought up big, seemingly rejoicing at the return of their beloved beverage. There was speculation that the company had intentionally made the New Coke taste awful just to boost sales of Coke Classic when it inevitably returned. Whether that is in fact true or not is unclear. There was definitely something unsavory about the return of Coke Classic, though. Namely, Coke Classic was not made from the original Coca-Cola formula.

Some Coke fans noticed the difference, though the majority of people did not. Just what had changed was that the Coca-Cola Company had changed their recipe to use high fructose corn syrup in place of sugar cane. The Coke that existed before 1985 is no longer available anywhere in the world.

2)  Coke Was Intended to Treat Addiction
Most people are well aware that when Coca-Cola was invented it was intended purely for medicinal purposes. However, something that most people are unaware of is just why it was invent in the first place.

civil war

Coca-Cola was invented by John Pemberton. He invented Coke as a way of weaning himself off of morphine. Pemberton was a war veteran who had been seriously injured in 1865 while fighting in the Battle of Columbus. The need for painkillers to deal with his injuries led to his morphine addiction. This was an issue that many other injured war veterans struggled with at the time.


Unable to find anything that he could use as a substitute for morphine, Pemberton ended up inventing Coca-Cola syrup. This is why Coca-Cola originally contained cocaine, as it was considered a better alternative to morphine.

1)  The Recipe for Coke Was Discovered in 1979
On the 11th February, 2011, radio host Ira Glass announced to the world that the recipe for Coca-Cola was discovered in 1979. The news was broken on Glass’ program ‘This American Life’.

this american life
By Marcuc Brute via Wikimedia Commonsc

Glass recounted the story of journalist Charles Salter. In the 1970s, Salter was working for the newspaper the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 1979, Salter was traveling across America when he reportedly stumbled upon John Pemberton’s journal. The leather bound book contained the recipe for Coca Cola.

John Pemberton and coke

Salter detailed the recipe in a column called the "Georgia Rambler" for his paper. However, the column was filed away in the paper’s archive and never published. It was then forgotten. Salter’s relative never forgot about the story, though. Many years later, Salter’s family convinced Glass to investigate the story. Glass found enough evidence to suggest the recipe was indeed legitimate.

Coca-Cola's business model depicts one of international success. It has penetrated more foreign markets than most multinational companies and has reached more people than most consumer products companies could ever dream. Coca-Cola is currently sold in 200 countries which is a fantastic feet. Consider that the United Nations is only made up of  only 192 foreign nations. The company’s success shows no sign of slowing down. They are generally willing to try anything and everything to get ahead. There is little doubt therefore that numerous other strange, surprising and impressive facts about the storied and iconic company will emerge in the years to come.





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