In this new history Bartow J. Elmore explores Coke through its ingredients, showing how the company secured massive quantities of coca leaf, caffeine, sugar, and other inputs. Its growth was driven by shrewd leaders such as Asa Candler, who scaled an Atlanta soda-fountain operation into a national empire, and "boss" Robert Woodruff, who nurtured partnerships with companies like Hershey and Monsanto. These men, and the company they helped build, were seen as responsible citizens, bringing jobs and development to every corner of the globe. But as Elmore shows, Coke was usually getting the sweet end of the deal.
It continues to do so. Alongside Coke's recent public investments in water purification infrastructure, especially in Africa, it has also built--less publicly--a rash of bottling plants in dangerously arid regions. Looking past its message of corporate citizenship, Elmore finds a strategy of relentless growth.
The costs shed by Coke have fallen on the public at large. Its annual use of many billions of gallons of water has strained an increasingly scarce global resource. Its copious servings of high-fructose corn syrup have threatened public health. Citizen Coke became a giant in a world of abundance. In a world of scarcity it is a strain on resources and all who depend on them.
- ISBN-13: 9780393241129
- ISBN-10: 0393241122
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
- Publish Date: November 2014
- Page Count: 416
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-07-28
- Reviewer: Staff
Founded in 1866 by a “cash-strapped morphine addict operating out of a small pharmaceutical shop,” Coca-Cola didn’t have the most auspicious beginnings. However, as historian Elmore shows in this detailed profile, the company’s success can be traced to an ingenious strategy: supply only the syrup and let suppliers and franchises bear the costs of bottling and distribution, while utilizing the public water supply. This outsourcing enabled massive growth. Even sugar was outsourced during the 1920s, when a dehydrated, sugarless version of the drink was shipped to overseas bottlers, requiring them to add the sweetener. The potential public relations nightmare of aluminum Coke cans littering the countryside was handily managed by encouraging municipalities to run their own recycling programs, and the role of Coke in the ever-expanding waistlines of Americans was muted by the simple fact that the company is so deeply embedded in local communities. Elmore’s theory is thoroughly and consistently articulated throughout the book, but it’s a narrow one. The company’s marketing and branding efforts get nary a mention, and Elmore struggles with incorporating cultural and dietary trends. Still, this is a well researched and accessible history of one of the world’s most iconic brands. 8 pages of illus. (Nov.)