This Year Marks the 135th Anniversary of Coca-Cola (Do You Remember the Disastrous Change in the ’80s?)

Bottles of Coca-Cola are seen on the shelf at Tower Market January 16, 2004 in San Francisco, California. Coca-Cola is being investigated by U.S. regulators over allegations raised by a former employee that it had inflated its earnings
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Coca-Cola or Coke wasn’t always a fizzy beverage designed to give you a caffeine and sugar boost. On May 8, 1886, Dr. John Pemberton served the first of his creation. Back then, it was designed as a tonic for common ailments and was first served at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. Just a year earlier, he had concocted the alcoholic beverage Pemberton’s French Wine Coca meant to help headaches and nerves. When prohibition began, he needed to change the formula so it would be non-alcoholic and the start of Coca-Cola began.

Back then, it wasn’t a ready-made beverage. It was a syrup that was mixed before you drank it. Unfortunately, Dr. Pemberton died in 1888 before he could find out what Coca-Cola became. Asa G. Candler took over the company until 1916, with it eventually being sold to investors including Ernest Woodruff and his son Robert. They were responsible for removing cocaine, the infamous early ingredient, and bottling it. Things went smoothly for years and Coca-Cola became a very popular beverage.

24th July 1954: A woman encourages her date to 'Drink Coca-Cola' at a garden fete. Original Publication: Picture Post Ad - Vol 64 No 4 P 52 - pub. 1954

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Things changed in 1985. Coca-Cola and its recipe had been around for almost 100 years. They decided to change things up a bit and create “New Coke,” sweetened with corn syrup instead of sugar in hopes of competing with Pepsi and bringing in new consumers. Unfortunately, things did not go well. Fans of Coke were quick to notice the new taste and called it way too sugary. People even became angry and started collecting signatures to get Coca-Cola to go back to its original formula.

A Coca-Cola stall at Wembley Stadium during the Olympic Games in London, August 1948

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Protestors came out of the woodworks and one group called themselves The “Old Cola Drinkers of America.” Eventually, the then-president of Coca-Cola Donald Keough was seen in an ad where he said, “We’re bringing it back, the original taste of Coca-Cola returns as Coca-Cola Classic and soon America will have a real choice: the new taste of Coke or the original taste of Coca-Cola Classic.”

On the 30th anniversary of the embarrassing change, a Coca-Cola spokesperson said, “Thirty years ago, we introduced New Coke with no shortage of hype and fanfare. And it did succeed in shaking up the market. But not in the way it was intended. When we look back, this was the pivotal moment when we learned that fiercely loyal consumers — not the Company — own Coca-Cola and all of our brands. It is a lesson that we take seriously and one that becomes clearer and more obvious with each passing anniversary.”

25th June 1976: Coke six-packs on display at 'The Real Thing', a shop selling Coca-Cola merchandise and memorabilia

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135 years after its inception, there are over 100 flavors and variations of Coca-Cola including some of the recent odd new versions Dreamworld and Starlight. What is your favorite version of Coca-Cola? Or do you prefer Pepsi? Let us know!

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