Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism

Bartow J. Elmore. Norton, $27.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-393-24112-9
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.)
Reviewed on: 07/28/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
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