Citizen Coke

Citizen Coke

The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism

Book - 2015 | First edition.
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How did Coca-Cola build a global empire by selling a low-price concoction of mostly sugar, water, and caffeine? The easy answer is advertising, but the real formula to Coke's success was its strategy, from the start, to offload costs and risks onto suppliers, franchisees, and the government. For most of its history the company owned no bottling plants, water sources, cane- or cornfields. A lean operation, it benefited from public goods like cheap municipal water and curbside recycling programs. Its huge appetite for ingredients gave it outsized influence on suppliers and congressional committees. This was Coca-Cola capitalism.

In this new history Bartow J. Elmore explores Coke through its ingredients, showing how the company secured massive quantities of coca leaf, caffeine, sugar, and other inputs. Its growth was driven by shrewd leaders such as Asa Candler, who scaled an Atlanta soda-fountain operation into a national empire, and "boss" Robert Woodruff, who nurtured partnerships with companies like Hershey and Monsanto. These men, and the company they helped build, were seen as responsible citizens, bringing jobs and development to every corner of the globe. But as Elmore shows, Coke was usually getting the sweet end of the deal. It continues to do so. Alongside Coke's recent public investments in water purification infrastructure, especially in Africa, it has also built--less publicly--a rash of bottling plants in dangerously arid regions. Looking past its message of corporate citizenship, Elmore finds a strategy of relentless growth. The costs shed by Coke have fallen on the public at large. Its annual use of many billions of gallons of water has strained an increasingly scarce global resource. Its copious servings of high-fructose corn syrup have threatened public health. Citizen Coke became a giant in a world of abundance. In a world of scarcity it is a strain on resources and all who depend on them.

Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton & Company, [2015]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780393241129
Branch Call Number: 338.7663620973 Elm
Characteristics: 416 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Feb 24, 2016

coca cola's history is amazing.

Dec 13, 2015

Bartow Elmore delivers an expansive history of the brazen, and often anti-competitive, ways that Coca-Cola became the juggernaut it is - especially during WWII when it managed to monopolize cola sales to persons serving on the battlefield. Among other things, the book looks at the huge amount of water used to make the product (as well as bottled water products) and how it taxes municipal water sources and aquifers, recycling caffeine other companies would otherwise discard as waste and later coming up with a synthetic version of the stimulant, how it rode the wave when there was a demand for decaffeinated products, the reasons for the switch from pure sugar to corn syrup as the sweetener ... and of course, where it gets cocaine-extracted coca leaves that give Coke its flavour - and how that in part played into the decision to introduce New Coke. Fair play? Hardly. But breaking the rules has always been part of capitalism and this book shows how the company became a master of the craft.

Apr 10, 2015

If you thought "Fast Food Nation" was a blockbuster, wait till you read this one. My reaction on reading this interesting history of Coke was to ask, "is coke the real thing?" Coke seems to have had a business plan based on using others to make money for them. Or, in their own words if they could get somebody else to do something better than they themselves could why not allow them? Coke convinced the public that they were in the business of selling one thing and that was "taste." Coke took on the persona of a citizen during the war and stated repeatedly that it was enlisting its sugar for the public good. Despite being the number one brand in the world, coke was always a net consumer not a net producer since it outsourced all its production - way before the word 'outsourced' attained its current popularity.

These and several other facts about the ingredients in coke made the book a fascinating, easy read.

Apr 05, 2015

This is a very dry, corporate take on Coca-Cola; the reader may pick up some obscure corporate trivia, both about Coke and other companies, learn that Reese Witherspoon's physician ancestor testified before congress about the softdrink's addictive qualities in the early 1900s [author doesn't mention the relation connection, but it was easy to look up], but nothing is mentioned about Coke hiring thugs to handle union organizers and protesters, et cetera. Somewhat boring, but well researched from a product breakdown structure of the book. [Wonder why they don't have Orange Coke, similar to Cherry Coca-Cola - - I frequently mix orange soft drink with Coke, and it tastes superior?]

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