Didier Nourrisson, an excellent food historian, tells how the company born in Georgia, has, in stages, colonized the world.
If France was not the most affected country, it should be noted that at the start, the initial formula was inspired by medicinal wines which were somewhat our national specialty – Mariani wines, for example, whose advertising said : “The Mariani wines would wake up the mummies”. It was in a second phase that the founder, Pemberton, turned to sparkling water and that soda in which coca from America and kola from Africa were mysteriously infused began to be distributed by refreshing fountains.
Pemberton quickly left the history of Coke, however the legend continues to say that the first formula he developed would be kept in the basement of an Atlanta bank, untouched since 1886. The Carthusian monks tell the same thing about their liqueur except that currently, they have decided to reduce production in the name of the precautionary principle. Coca – which lives on other proportions – actually practices perpetual diversification and modification. To the point, at the time of its centenary, to consider the liquidation of the initial version. Consumers, put good order to start with the youngest who protested with the hair of “We are changing America”.
The strength of Coca was first to merge with America.
And to be seen as an instrument of construction of the United States, a way to successively integrate the different populations. The first projects of penetration in Europe are barely sketched when the president of the firm, Candler, takes his wife in 1913 for a long trip to Europe then it is the Great War. Then the new boss Bob Woorduff relaunch the export function. She goes through the bottle. In 1928, the sale in bottles exceeded the sale by the glass at the soda fountain. The expansion of foreign markets will be measured by the number of bottling plants.
The first in France dates from 1921.
In Europe, the leading role will be held by the German more than by our country.
Nourrisson shows how Coca was unhindered by Nazism. Yet competitors and beer sellers have not failed to speak of a drink enjuïvée. But the boss of Coca Germany, Keith, circumvented the obstacles, associated Coca with the Olympics – already, those of Munich 1936 to which went the big boss Woodruff who spent an evening with Goebbels and Goering. Coca was a major supplier to the Wehrmacht.
Like the US Army, of course. General Eisenhower after the Allied landing in North Africa calls for the urgent dispatch of 3 million bottles and the rapid assembly of ten factories.
With the Cold War, the function of Coke changed.
The little bottle symbolizes the way of life defended by the West against communism, which ignores it. The director of Coca Export, Farley, is a former adviser to Roosevelt who is not afraid to affirm: “Where there is Coke, the reds will not pass.”
The Communists are not left out of slogans. Unita, the Italian party newspaper, explains that Coke whitens children’s hair. L’Humanité in France that the drink is as dangerous as the hybrid corn also imported from the United States. On these questions, as on that of the press intended for young people, the Communists found allies, particularly among the Catholics. A bill was even adopted in 1950 on the initiative of Paul Boulet, very Christian mayor of Montpellier. She wants to block the consumption of Coke by a health check of its composition. The viticulture lobby supports this offensive since French wine also brings health, it is well known!
In 1985, Coca appeared at the Fête de l’Humanité. And in 2024, no moment of the Paris Olympic Games will escape him.
It’s a tradition, Coke at the Olympics. We were talking about Munich 1936. We should mention Helsinki 1952, Melbourne 1956. The big game then was to steal photos of athletes from communist countries consuming happily and then distributing them.
In Paris 2024, nothing is clandestine, everything is contractualized. Coke will have its hands on all non-alcoholic beverages down to waters and tea. To his presence after the opening will be added the sponsorship of the route of the flame. The mayor of Montpellier explains that for nothing in the world, he would not have missed the chance to see the flame pass through his city. Poor Mr Boulet.
And once we have reached the tests, how will we drink Coke and its various satellites? In paper cups of course and at the foot of large soda fountains. Back to origins?
Didier Nourisson, America in bottlesVendémiaire.