The Coca-Cola Company
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The Coca-Cola Company
The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is an international beverage and food manufacturer whose headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States of America. It is best known for its flagship product, Coca-Cola.
World War II
Coca-Cola had a controversial relationship with Nazism before and during World War II. The company adopted an apparent policy of ignoring the Nazis' practice of eugenics and anti-Semitism. Indeed, several of Coke's top executives in Germany were prominent Nazi members. When the United States entered World War II, Coke began to represent itself as a patriotic drink by providing free drinks for American soldiers.
The American Army permitted Coca-Cola employees to enter the frontlines as "Technical Officers" when in reality they rarely if ever came close to a real battle. Instead, they operated Coke's system of providing refreshments for soldiers, who welcomed the beverage as a reminder of home. As the Allies advanced, so did Coke, which took advantage of the situation by establishing new franchises in the newly occupied countries. The popularity of the drink exploded in the wake of World War II as American soldiers returned home, more grateful than ever to partake of a beverage that had become synonymous with the American way of life.
In the 1930s, Robert W. Woodruff became president of the Coca-Cola Company, presiding over the drink and its destiny till his death in 1985. Although he eventually stepped down from his post due to stress, he retained control over the company despite holding positions with an ostensibly low profile. His fanatical devotion to Coke was widely reported, and even in his old age, whenever he stopped by a Coke vendor, he would count how many bottles in the trash belonged to Coca-Cola. This almost devout dedication to the product spilled over to other executives in the company. In recent years, Rick Bronson, a truck driver for Coca-Cola, was fired for drinking a Pepsi (some allege it was actually over his involvement with unions). He was reinstated after a high-profile protest.
Santa Claus in his current guise (particularly his red and white attire) is commonly thought to be created by the Coca-Cola Company, but this is in fact false; the modern image of Santa Claus was already established in the 1920s, years before the first Coke-promoting Santa was pictured. The vigorous promotion has caused Santa Claus and Coca-Cola to become closely associated, however, and to this day, Santa Claus still appears on Coca-Cola products each year around Christmas time.
- CEO: E. Neville Isdell (since June 2004)
Products and brands
Main article: Coca-Cola brands
The company produces many other soft drinks, including other varieties of Coca-Cola such as Diet Coke (introduced in 1982), which uses aspartame, a synthetic phenylalanine-based sweetener, to eliminate the sugar content of the drink; Caffeine-free Coke; Cherry Coke (1985); Diet Cherry Coke (1986); Coke with Lemon (2001); Diet Coke with Lemon (2001); Vanilla Coke (2002); Diet Vanilla Coke (2002); Diet Coke with Lime (2004); and Diet Coke with Splenda (2005).
Tab was Coca-Cola's first attempt to develop a diet soft drink, using saccharine as a sugar substitute. Introduced in 1963, the product is still sold today, however its sales have dwindled since the introduction of Diet Coke.
The Coca-Cola Company also produces a number of other soft drinks including Fanta (introduced circa 1942 or 1943) and Sprite. Fanta's origins date back to World War II when Max Keith, who managed Coca-Cola's operations in Germany during the war, ran out of the ingredients for Coke, which could be supplied only from the United States. Keith resorted to producing a different soft drink, Fanta, which proved to be a hit, and when Coke took over again after the war, it adopted the Fanta brand as well.
In 2004, perhaps in response to the burgeoning popularity of low-carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins Diet, Coca-Cola announced its intention to develop and sell a low-carbohydrate alternative to Coke Classic, dubbed C2 Cola. C2 contains a mix of high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose, and Acesulfame potassium. C2 is designed to more closely emulate the taste of Coca-Cola Classic. Even with less than half of the calories and carbohydrates of standard soft drinks, C2 is not a replacement for zero-calorie soft drinks such as Diet Coke. C2 went on sale in the US on June 11 2004, and in Canada in August 2004.
Coca-Cola is the best-selling soft drink in most countries. Nevertheless, there are some places like Scotland, where the locally produced Irn-Bru is more popular, and Quebec and Prince Edward Island, Canada, where Pepsi is the market leader. Coke is less popular in other places, including some Middle Eastern and Asian countries such as India—in the latter, due to suspicions regarding the health standards of the drink.
The Coca-Cola Company owns numerous brands and trademarks. Probably the most well-known besides Coca-Cola, Coke, and their various spin-offs are Sprite, Fanta, Tab, Surge, Minute Maid, Powerade, Barq's and Mello Yello (see Coca-Cola brands).
List of brands
The company is most commonly associated with its eponymous flagship product Coca-Cola. However, it also manufactures many other widely marketed and consumed products, and bottles and distributes other soft drink brands. Some of the other more recognizable brands in their case volume are:
- Alhambra - drinking water
- Bacardi Mixers - a co-branded product with the Bacardi rum manufacturer
- Barq's - root beer
- Cristal - champagne
- Crush - orange soft drink (excluding the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and most of Europe)
- Dasani - bottled water
- Dr Pepper - soft drink (not a Coca-Cola product in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and parts of Europe)
- Fanta - sub-brand of several fruit flavored soft drinks
- Fresca - grapefruit diet soft drink
- Fruitopia - non-carbonated soft drinks
- Hi-C - juice drink sub-brand
- Lift - fruit juice soft drink
- Mello Yello
- Minute Maid - juice brand and sub-brand of fruit-flavored soda which contains some fruit juice
- Mr. Pibb - soft drink
- Nestea - iced tea
- Qoo - non-carbonated drink
- Sprite - lemon-lime flavored soft drink
- Surge - citrus soda
- TaB - diet soda
The company has had several failed branding attempts, including:
As the largest seller of soft drinks in the world, the Coca-Cola Company has been the subject of various allegations, such as monopolistic practices, reliance on low health standards, racist employment practices, and the assassination of union members, as well as critiques of the company's products and trade practices. Coca-Cola has recently been denounced in the UK for weaning young children onto junk food. In India, the corporation has provoked a number of boycotts and protests as a result of its perceived low standards of hygiene and adverse impact on the environment. In Colombia, the company is alleged to be responsible for 179 major human rights violations, including nine murders.
Coca-Cola in India
Coca-Cola was banned from import in India in 1970 as a result of the corporation's refusal to release the list of its ingredients. In 1993, the ban was lifted in pursuance of India's Liberalization policy. Soon after the relaunch, a study led by the Center for Science and the Environment (CSE), an independent scientific laboratory in New Delhi, found that Coca-Cola (along with competitor Pepsi) contained residues of dangerous pesticides at levels some thirty times the prescribed Indian and European norms. There were instances of substandard bottling practices by the company; the notorious discovery of a dead lizard inside a sealed Coca-Cola bottle was widely publicized. Environmental degradation in the form of depletion of the local ground water table due to the utilization of natural water resources by the company posed a serious threat to many communities. Finally, there were suspicions surrounding the addictive nature of the drink. As the company refused to disclose the exact ingredients, this remains a matter of speculation. In response to these allegedly unethical practices, several non-governmental organizations launched anti-Coca-Cola campaigns in India.
In addition, the Coca-Cola production facility in Kerala has been blamed for a drastic decline in both quantity and quality of water available to local farmers and villagers. The plant has the capacity to draw 1.5 million liters of water from the ground each day. As water is viewed as a public good in India, there is no regulatory agency to challenge this. Reacting to villager complaints that water supplies had rapidly dwindled and were murky (several tests suggest that the water was undrinkable), the High Court in Kerala ruled in 2003 that the plant could only use as much water as any other landowner with 34 acres (140,000 m²) in the region. The case has been appealed and a decision is pending.
On 7 December 2004, India's Supreme Court ruled that both Coca-Cola and competitor Pepsi must label all cans and bottles of the respective soft drinks with a consumer warning, after tests showed unacceptable levels of residual pesticides. Both companies continue to maintain that their products meet all international safety standards.
Coca-Cola bottlers and trade unions
Coca-Cola bottler Panamco has been criticized for its relationship with unions. In Colombia, it has been alleged that the bottling company hired paramilitary mercenaries to assassinate union leaders. In January 2004, the New York City Fact-Finding Delegation on Coca-Cola in Colombia   confirmed the workers' allegations. They found:
- To date, there have been a total of 179 major human rights violations of Coca-Cola's workers, including nine murders. Family members of union activists have been abducted and tortured. Union members have been fired for attending union meetings. The company has pressured workers to resign their union membership and contractual rights, and fired workers who refused to do so.
- Most troubling to the delegation were the persistent allegations that paramilitary violence against workers was done with the knowledge of and likely under the direction of company managers. The physical access that paramilitaries have had to Coca-Cola bottling plants is impossible without company knowledge and/or tacit approval....
Critics argue that, whatever their source, these assassinations seem to have been helpful to Coca-Cola in eliminating troublemakers from their bottling plants. The bottler and The Coca-Cola Company deny these allegations.
In July 2004, the United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor Rights Fund filed suit in US court against Coca-Cola and some bottlers in Colombia on behalf of their workers. According to the plaintiffs, the companies "hired, contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces". The companies deny the charges.
The SINALTRAINAL trade union, which represents the majority of workers at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia, called for an international boycott of Coca-Cola products in the summer of 2003. In October of that year, the Students' Union in University College, Dublin, the largest university in Ireland, controversially decided to ban the sale of Coca-Cola products as a result. A later attempt to reverse the ban at UCD failed, and the boycott has spread to other colleges in Ireland, most notably Trinity College, Dublin and the National College of Art and Design, as well as a number of bars and restaurants. Motions in support of the boycott have been passed by the Union of Students in Ireland, which represents the 250,000 students on the island of Ireland, as well as the Teachers' Union of Ireland and the Irish National Teachers Organization and a number of other trade unions and political organizations. The boycott is opposed by some branches in the SIPTU trade union (who represent the majority of Coca-Cola workers in Ireland) and by the Coca-Cola Company themselves.
The example set in Ireland has spread across the world, with the National Union of Students in Britain voting to support the boycott in April 2005. UNISON, the largest trade union in the UK, also voted to support the boycott at its 2004 National Delegate Conference. ECOSY, the European Young Socialists, a federation of youth wings of all the mainstream socialist and social democratic parties in the EU, voted to support the boycott in March 2005 following a motion from the Irish Labour Youth delegation. Campuses and labor and trade unions in the United States, Italy, France and Canada, amongst others, are also campaigning for the boycott to spread.
In the 1980s, Guatemala also suffered a spate of mysterious murders of union-affiliated Coca-Cola employees. At one point, paramilitary mercenaries violently occupied a factory. Eventually, after pressure from several organizations worldwide, the conflict was ended when the corporation appointed a new franchise operator who brokered a deal with the union.
There have been troubled (but slightly less publicized) relations between the company and unions in other parts of the world, notably the Philippines, Zimbabwe, and even the United States. In 2002, two Coca-Cola shareholders, the Christian Brothers, presented a resolution at the shareholders' meeting that called for Coca-Cola to adopt a code of conduct on bottling practices and employee relations. The shareholders rejected the resolution, despite the fact that it had received almost unanimous union support in the aforementioned countries.
Implications of doing business in Israel/Palestine
A common belief is that Coca-Cola supports Israel, or Palestine, depending on the proclivities of the urban mythologist. For example, a controversy arose in Egypt when a consumer mistook an Ethiopian inscription on a Coca-Cola bottle for Hebrew, sparking anger amongst Arab consumers of the drink. Coke's Egyptian manager reassured the press that the company would never open a bottling plant in Israel, thereby immediately escalating a local controversy almost to the status of an international incident.
In truth, Coca-Cola had attempted to open a plant in Israel in 1949, but the Israeli government refused the permit, and the company did not push the issue further. A boycott began in the United States, leading to Coke's announcement that they would open a plant in Tel Aviv. This caused fury amongst Arab consumers of Coca-Cola, who in turn—led by the Arab League (with the exception of Egypt, whose boycott only lasted till 1979)—boycotted Coke until 1991.
Pepsi also suffered from boycotts in America after intentionally avoiding Israel. This controversy eventually subsided when Pepsi entered the Israeli market in 1992. 
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, rumors abounded that Coke supported Israel with donations. Although they turned out to be false, numerous calls were made for a boycott against Coca-Cola in the Middle East. However, as a substantial amount of Coca-Cola is produced in a plant in Ramallah, some believe that such boycotts would likely hinder rather than help the Palestinian cause. 
Along with McDonald's, Coca-Cola has become an international symbol of American culture, and especially of American consumerism. While the company still enjoys widespread popularity, some backlash has occurred, mostly in the form of boycotts in the Middle East. A French Tunisian, Tawfiq Mathlouthi, launched a new brand of cola drink, dubbed Mecca-Cola, to protest American foreign policy in the Middle East. The company donates 10% of its profits to Palestinian charities.
- Pendergrast, Mark: For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It. New York: Basic Books, 2000 (second edition; ISBN 0465054684).
- Zyman, Sergio: The End of Marketing as We Know It. New York: HarperBusiness (1st edition (June 1, 1999) ISBN 0887309860).
- Company website
- Bobby's Coca-Cola on the Web
- www.killercoke.org - Campaign to stop the murder and torture of union leaders working at Coca-Cola plants in Colombia
- Coca-Cola Goes to War
- Allegations of copyright problems with some of Coca-Cola's corporate identity
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The Coca-Cola Company