Thursday, September 16, 2010

 It's not surprising that Coca-Cola, probably the world's most recognized product (and certainly its most popular soft drink) has spawned a wide variety of popular stories about its origin, its effects, and the ingredients used in Coke's famous "secret formula:" Most of these tales, such as the ones about Coca Cola dissolving teeth, its supposed contraceptive powers, or the assertion that 1985s New Coke debacle was a Machiavellian gambit to divert attention from a change from the original formula, are baseless. But the most frequently heard story, that Coca-Cola originally contained cocaine, is, technically speaking, true.

Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 by John Pemberton, an Atlanta, Georgia, pharmacist. Pemberton was actually trying to concoct a headache remedy, but once he mixed his special syrup with carbonated water, and a few customers tasted the result, he realized that he had the makings of a popular soda fountain beverage. The name Coca-Cola was coined by Pemberton's bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, who also wrote out the new name in the expressive script that has become Coca Cola's signature logo.

Though the Coca-Cola Company apparently would rather not talk about the origin of its name in detail, it's clear that Robinson derived "Coca-Cola" from two of the drink's ingredients: cola from the cola nut, and extract of coca leaf, also the source of cocaine. Cocaine was a common ingredient of nineteenth-century patent medicines, and by the standards of the day Coca-Cola contained a minuscule amount that probably had no effect on its consumers. 

Still, by the early 1890s there was a rising tide of anti-cocaine sentiment, and Atlanta businessman Asa Candler, who acquired the Coca Cola Company in 1891, steadily decreased even the tiny amount of the drug in the recipe. There is some evidence that the only reason Candler kept putting even minute amounts of coca extract in the drink was the belief that to omit it entirely might cause Coca Cola, by then besieged by imitators, to lose its trademark. In any event, Coca-Cola was completely cocaine free by 1929.

The name Coke appeared in popular usage as a short form of Coca-Cola just before World War I but was often applied as a generic term to any cola drink (and used by Coca-Cola's competitors, including the now long-defunct Koke Company) until 1940, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the name Coke rightfully belongs to the Coca-Cola Company. 

In financial circles, Coca-Cola has been one of the strongest and most reliable trading stocks, showing a steady return in all of its years of existence but one. Warren Buffet, one of the world's richest men, has always touted Coca Cola as an essential in one's stock portfolio.


Post a Comment