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10 Soda Secrets Coca-Cola Isn’t Telling You

How much do you think you know about the iconic soda brand?

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Coke bottlesDenisMArt/Shutterstock

Its bottle was designed to ward off competition

In the early 1900s, it wasn’t easy to tell a Coca-Cola bottle apart from copycat competitors like Koka-Kola and Celery-Cola, so the company gave glass companies a challenge in 1915: Design a “bottle so distinct that you would recognize it by feel in the dark or lying broken on the ground.” A slimmed-down version of the winner, which came out a year later, became the iconic Coke bottle, and it’s now the most recognized bottle in the world. Find out why Coca-Cola’s logo is bright red.

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cocoa beansAfrica-Studio/Shutterstock

That first bottle was based on the wrong plant

The competition winner that was tweaked for the iconic Coke bottle design was inspired by a picture of a cocoa bean that the researchers found when they went to the library to find design possibilities. Its curved shape and ribbings might have made a distinctive design, but Coca-Cola got its name from the coca plant, not the cocoa plant.

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cocaineDedMityay/Shutterstock

It used to contain cocaine

The rumors are true, even though Coca-Cola U.K. denies it: The original Coke contained coke, which was legal at the time, along with other extracts from coca leaves, the plant used to make the narcotic, spokesmen admitted to the New York Times in 1988. Trace amounts of the drug stayed in the drink until 1929, and even today, the company’s closely guarded secret recipe is said to contain coca leaf ingredients, but their psychoactive elements are removed. Learn the real reason Coke tastes better at McDonald’s than anywhere else.

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stephascopedaizuoxin/Shutterstock

It used to be advertised as medicinal

In the 1890s, Coke wasn’t just advertised as a refreshing, bubbly drink. It wasn’t invented as medicine, but its ads did make claims like “A Delightful Summer or Winter Drink. For Headache or Tired Feeling. Relieves Mental and Physical Exhaustion.” When you’re in need of a pick-me-up, maybe you’d see their point.

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Clear fizzYeryomina Anastassiya/Shutterstock

Coke made a drink just for Soviet leaders

During World War II, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower gave Marshal Georgi Zhukov of the Soviet Red Army a taste of Coca-Cola. The Soviet commander loved the taste but knew that Joseph Stalin wouldn’t appreciate seeing him sip Coca-Cola, which was seen as a symbol of American imperialism. But the soda company wasn’t about to lose business over a silly thing like political ideals. So it special-made “White Coke” for Zhukov, removing the caramel coloring to create a drink clear as vodka, and packing it in plain, clear bottles with a red star on the cap.

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Coca ColaElvan/Shutterstock

It might have invented the six-pack

When you think of picking up a six-pack, beers might be the first drink that comes to mind. But according to Coke company history, the soda brand was the leader of the pack. In 1923, home refrigerators were becoming more common, so people were more likely to bring home bottles to enjoy later. They could only hold so many in their hands at once, so Coca-Cola developed a cardboard carton that made it easy to carry six at once. Here are the best regional sodas from every state.

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Santa with CokeShutterstock

Coca-Cola didn’t create Santa’s current look

Maybe you’ve heard the rumors that when Coca-Cola launched its annual Santa Claus ads starting in the winter of 1931, the illustrations introduced the public to an image of St. Nick as a white-bearded, pudgy man dressed in red—the color of Coke’s branding, of course. Coke might have helped solidify that image of Santa, but it certainly didn’t create it. Paintings and drawings already showed that iconic look for Santa for at least 25 years before Coke’s ads. 

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Coke plantHarish Tyagi/Epa/Shutterstock

It drains farmers dry—literally

It takes 2.7 liters of water to make one liter of Coke, which is part of the reason that its bottling plants have been accused of hogging water that should go to farmers in poor areas of India and Latin America. In 2014, officials ordered a Coca-Cola plant to shut down because it was taking too much groundwater, and in 2017, traders boycotted sodas (including Coke and Pepsi) for using up too much water during a drought.

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FantaDin Mohd Yaman/Shutterstock

The company’s second drink wasn’t Diet Coke or Sprite

The second soft drink the Coca-Cola Company introduced was Fanta Orange, which came to Naples, Italy, in 1955. Fanta hit U.S. shelves in 1960, a year before Sprite came out.

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Tab ClearMurray Sanders/Associated Newspapers/Shutterstock

There was a predecessor to Diet Coke

Before soda lovers could get their hands on Diet Coke, they might have tried sipping TaB instead. The Coca-Cola Company introduced the one-calorie drink in 1963. Its space on store shelves made way for Diet Coke almost 20 years later, but diehard fans can still find their nostalgic sugar-free soda from certain retailers. Don’t miss these 10 reasons you should avoid all soda—including diet.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest
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