Beginning with one employee, a mule named “Bird” and a foot-powered bottling machine, Crawford Johnson Sr. purchased the exclusive franchise rights, in 1902, to bottle and distribute Coca-Cola in Birmingham, Alabama.
Today, Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc. produces and distributes over 750 Coca-Cola products across 7 states. The company employs over 5,700 people in 35 sales centers and 4 production facilities.
Since its founding, Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED (“UNITED”) has become the third-largest Coca-Cola bottling company in North America and the largest privately held Coca-Cola bottler. UNITED owns the exclusive rights to manufacture, distribute, and sell Coca-Cola beverages and other products throughout its franchise territory in the southeastern United States.
The Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc. mission is to increase and sustain its value for the benefit of its associates, consumers, customers, communities and owners. Chief among our goals is to be the most admired Coca-Cola bottler in North America, and the most respected consumer products supplier in the markets we serve.
The beginnings of what is now the largest privately owned bottler in the United States …A story of entrepreneurial spirit, vision and diligence.
“Crawford, you’re fired.” Those words, started what is perhaps one of the most successful careers in the bottling industry.
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The product that has given the world its best-known taste was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886. Dr. John Stith Pemberton, a local pharmacist, produced the syrup for Coca-Cola, and carried a jug of the new product down the street to Jacobs’ Pharmacy, where it was sampled, pronounced “excellent” and placed on sale for five cents a glass as a soda fountain drink. Carbonated water was teamed with the new syrup to produce a drink that was at once “Delicious and Refreshing,” a theme that continues to echo today wherever Coca-Cola is enjoyed.
The bottle was created in 1915 because we needed a way to differentiate Coca-Cola from imitators and would-be competitors in the soft drink business. Our [The Coca-Cola Company] brief to the designer was to
. . . develop a bottle that consumers would recognize in the dark or at the bottom of an icy cooler.
In 1894, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Joseph A. Biedenharn was so impressed by the growing demand for Coca-Cola at his soda fountain that he installed bottling machinery in the rear of his store and began to sell cases of Coca-Cola to farms and lumber camps up and down the Mississippi River. He was the first person to bottle delicious and refreshing Coca-Cola in single serve bottles and distribute to local consumers. In 1899, large scale bottling was made possible.
The Coca-Cola bottling system grew up with roots deeply planted in local communities. As was true a century ago, strong locally based relationships between Coca-Cola bottlers, customers and communities are the foundation on which the entire business grows.