Chattanooga Coca-Cola History


     Chattanooga is the site of the World's First Coca-Cola Bottling Company.  Before Coca-Cola first appeared in bottles, it was sold as a fountain drink for more than a decade.  The world's best known taste was born on May 8, 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The taste originated in a three-legged brass kettle sitting in the backyard of Dr. John Stythe Pemberton.  Pemberton, a local pharmacist and concocter of medicinal beverages, stirred up a caramel-colored syrup creation that we know today as Coca-Cola.  Soon after, Pemberton began selling the drink mixed with soda water in a nearby pharmacy.

     In the summer of 1899, Mr. Benjamin F. Thomas and Mr. Joseph B. Whitehead ventured down to Atlanta from Chattanooga to meet with Mr. Asa Candler; who purchased the Coca-Cola Company seven years earlier.  When they conveyed their idea to bottle Coca-Cola to Mr. Candler, he thought they were insane.  He feared that if Thomas and Whitehead were allowed to bottle the product, they would lose everything and damage the reputation of the Coca-Cola Company in the process.  After much persuasion, Candler signed a contract, selling the bottling rights to Thomas and Whitehead for $1.00 (A dollar, which by the way, he never bothered to collect).  The two new entrepreneurs returned home satisfied and with the aid of colleague John T. Lupton, opened the World's First Coca-Cola Bottling Company.  The original facility was located at 17 Market Street where Patten Parkway now stands.  As the business continued to thrive, the plant was moved to 201 Broad Street, and finally in 1970, to its current location at 4000 Amnicola Highway.

     In 1992, Chattanooga Coca-Cola became part of United Packers' Central Division, which also currently includes other facilities in Birmingham, Cullman,  and Jasper Alabama.  United Packers is one of the nation's most efficient and modern producers of non-carbonated beverages and is well renowned for its innovation, product quality, and customer service.  Chattanooga Coca-Cola Bottling maintains a dominate market share in the southeastern Tennessee and northwest Georgia regions.  Former Vice-President of Coca-Cola United and former Chattanooga employee Robert Lovell points to the bottler's "very strong presence" in recreational, educational, and philanthropic contributions as one of the major causes for the company's success.  Chattanooga Coca-Cola plays a notable role through both charitable and community involvements in these arenas.  Working with United Way, Big Brother/Sister programs, the Hamilton County Board of Education, and many other organizations, Coca-Cola is able to grow and improve Chattanooga and the surrounding area.  "Inside every bottle of Coca-Cola, there's a little bit of Chattanooga."

     In 1999, Chattanooga Coca-Cola celebrated its 100th Anniversary as the World's First Coca -Cola bottler by placing a historical marker at the site of the original plant.  What makes this company so special?  "It's not mortar and steel," says Chattanooga Division Vice-President Gary Davis, "but it is infrastructure - not something you put on a bronze plaque.  That infrastructure is the employees, the relationship they build in the community, and the way in which they value the reputation of their company."

     Although it began more than 100 years ago, the goal of Chattanooga Coca-Cola is best described in the company's mission statement: "To carry on the historic tradition of Coca-Cola in Chattanooga by providing quality products and service at a fair price.  We should strive to always be leaders in the community with competent, determined people who love their job."