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History of Coca-Cola: Timeline and Facts

One of the most successful names in American business history, Coca-Cola’s fascinating beginnings turned into one of the largest beverage companies in the world. Here is a brief history of the company’s life, and the moves being taken today that affect the stock’s performance.
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One of the most successful names in American business history, Coca-Cola’s fascinating beginnings turned into one of the largest beverage companies in the world.

Coca-Cola. The mega conglomerate of American capitalism, with humble beginnings as a drink containing cocaine. Since 1886, Coca-Cola has operated through the changes in the U.S., and eventually the world. Since going public, it has been a time-honored dividend play, with decades of strong financial growth.

How Was Coca-Cola Founded?

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, Coca-Cola (KO) - Get Coca-Cola Company Report began in 1886 when John S. Pemberton began to make the original beverage at his chemical company. Originally containing both cocaine and forms of caffeine, the drink was marketed as a “tonic” for ailments. As crazy as it sounds, that wasn’t that absurd for the times.

Pemberton’s syrup was taken to a local pharmacy where they added it to soda water. According to Coca-Cola’s website, Frank M. Robinson, Pemberton’s business partner, came up with the name Coca-Cola as well as the design that everyone knows so well. Pemberton’s creation wasn’t his for long, as investors soon jumped in on the potential of the beverage, and expansion took off past the beginning territory of Atlanta.

Coca-Cola Timeline

1886- John S. Pemberton creates the flavored syrup that become Coca-Cola.

1888-Before Pemberton’s passing, he divests parts of his business, with Asa G. Cander gaining the largest holdings. The businessman began to turn Coca-Cola into a larger scale business. He drove distribution past the borders of Atlanta, with a focus on a more national strategy.

1894-Bottling machines are added to a soda source in Mississippi by Joseph Biedenharn.

1899- Bottling is expanding on a grander scale, businessmen in Tennessee gain rights to the bottling and sale of the soda.

1916-The year that the unique classic glass bottle, with its contoured shape, came into the picture.

1971- Coca-Cola airs one of the most iconic ads in the history of advertising, their “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” commercial.

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Today- Coca-Cola does billions in revenues, and is a dividend staple for many portfolios. The company has faced some adversity in more recent times, as they’ve had to broaden their portfolio in order to stem declining revenues.

While there have been many sodas out there, including the heavy competitor in Pepsi (PEP) - Get PepsiCo, Inc. Report, Coca-Cola has always created some of the strongest marketing campaigns. These include the classic polar-bear-drinking-Coca-Cola series, along with a plethora of TV spots, Olympic advertising, etc.


One of the most obvious controversies surrounding Coca-Cola is simply the questionable health of drinking soda. It has been fairly well established that sugar-filled drinks wreak havoc on our bodies. Whether it be tooth decay, increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, associations with cancer — the stuff is simply not good for us. Harvard lays out a broad outline of issues that arise from the consumption of sugary drinks, and it certainly puts a hard target on many of Coca-Cola’s products.

The outline also points out that consumption of sugary drinks is on the decline in recent years, which explains in part Coca-Cola’s decreasing revenues, and their shifts to other types of drinks and products. This is a problem that faces most soda/energy drink-based companies. In response, we’ve seen things like Coke Zero, as well as investments into water, and more healthy alternatives.

Another controversy has been the heavy toll that production takes on water supplies. A few years ago, India was in the spotlight for protesting both Coca-Cola and Pepsi for their impacts on the country's water supply during a time of drought.

Watchdogs have also been critical of reports of leaked emails between employees and members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The controversy revolved around the company’s attempts to perhaps sway the standing on how sugary drinks affect the public’s health, including obesity rates. Of course, this sort of lobbying is not limited to Coca-Cola. Most large-scale corporations and industries seek to exert their influence on the policymakers that impact their bottom lines.

What’s Happening in 2019?

Aside from the lobbying controversies, 2019 has been a year of new strategies for Coca-Cola. The conglomerate is attempting to put new energy into the ever-popular coffee industry. After buying out the Costa Coffee company, a massive coffee brand from the U.K., Coca-Cola became one of the top coffee companies in the world. Coke’s own “Georgia Coffee” brand has grown exponentially, with over $1 billion in sales.

Not only does it give them a base in traditional coffee supplies, it has led to coffee-infused products like the new “Coca-Cola Coffee”. The adds coffee caffeine in a mix with its traditional drink. It might sound odd, but considering the ever-rising number of caffeine drinks on the market, Coca-Cola is on point with trends. The drink also carries less sugar than your traditional Coca-Cola offering.

Impacts on the Stock

After a few years of stagnation, things seem to have righted themselves. Through the first nine months of the year, net operating revenues are up 6% to $28.2 billion, while operating incomes have gained 8%. Overall net income is up a strong 24% to $6.87 billion, with earnings of $1.60 per diluted share.

Coca-Cola shares largely outpace the S&P 500 over the long run. More recently, the stock struggled a bit to keep up with the market as the questions over revenue trends took their toll. With the renewed momentum resulting from a broader base of business directives, the stock has found it gusto again. Through the last six months, we’ve seen shares outpace the S&P 500 by roughly 10%.