Origins of a collecting icon - Coke Bottles
Classic design: part marketing savvy,
part lucky mistake
The now-familiar shape of the Coke bottle is part marketing savvy, part lucky mistake.
In the first years of the 20th century, bottled soft drinks were sold
from large tubs filled with ice water. Customers would reach in, grab a
bottle, and keep grabbing until they found the brand they were looking
for. Most soft drinks came in straight-sided bottles; it could be hard to
tell what you had, as labels often came off in the water.
Coca-Cola executives realized if their bottle could be identified by feel,
they'd be ahead of their competitors. And a distinctive shape could be trademarked, another advantage.
A committee was formed to choose a design. In the summer of 1913, the
plant manager at a Coca-Cola bottle supplier in Terre Haute, Indiana, sent
an employee to the library to look up information on coca leaves and kola
nuts, thinking a bottle that echoed the shape of the drink's original ingredients would be unique.
But the employee ended up on the wrong page of the encyclopedia. The
bottle design the Indianans came up with — vertical striations, a
bulging middle — was based on the seed pod of the cacao tree, no relation to coca or kola. But the committee loved it.
After some discussion, light green glass was chosen over brown; the
logo continued to be modeled on flowing script first penned in 1886 by the
bookkeeper to Coca-Cola's inventor, Dr. John S. Pemberton. The bottle went on to become a fixture on the pop culture landscape.
Today most Coke is purchased in aluminum cans and plastic bottles, but the familiar glass-bottle shape is there even when it's not. The
"swoosh" that appears in Coke's advertising and packaging is a
stylized version of the patented cocoa-bean curve, a permanent reminder of its early beginnings in Terre Haute.