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Did Coca-Cola Truly Sell Only 25 Bottles in Their First Year?



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Coca Cola

Did Coca-Cola only sell 25 bottles in their first year? This is a factoid that’s often presented online as a motivational piece of history to show struggling businesses and individuals that success may be just around the corner. But how much of it is true? Did Coca-Cola only sold 25 bottles in their first year? Despite the good intentions of the factoid, Coca-Coal did considerably better, but you wouldn’t consider it a roaring success.

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The journey of Coca-Cola started in an Atlanta pharmacy in 1886 as a tonic. With some considerably different ingredients to the current formula, such as cocaine, we think treating the beverage as a tonic may have been the right course of action.

The creator, John Pemberton, sold the now world-famous drink for a mere 5 cents a glass. That’s not a lot, and at the supposed rate would have amounted to only $1.25. Only the most stubborn of businessmen would persevere with such dismal sales.

Okay, so we’re going to say it. Coca-Cola sold more than 25 bottles in their first year, but it wouldn’t be something that he’d have written home about. To tell you the truth, Pemberton must have been incredibly stubborn.


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It’s generally universally accepted that Pemberton sold an average of 9 glasses a day for the first year. This figure to convert to about 25 gallons of syrup, which is where this factoid may be mixing fact with fiction, or just getting confused, as in a game of telephone. So if we assume a glass holds the same volume as a bottle then Pemberton sold 25 bottles of Coca-Cola every two days, or 131.4 times more than the factoid claims.

So we’ve established that Coca-Cola sold more than 25 bottles in their first year, but the story doesn’t end there. Although quite a lot of glasses were sold, it was still a failure in its first year. According to figures online, the total sales for the first year grossed, possibly netted $50. Sure, back in the late nineteenth century that was a lot of money, but when you consider that over $70 was spent on advertising that means it was a loss.

Pemberton sold his business to Asa Griggs Candler for $2300 in 1888, the same year as his death. He would unfortunately never see the success his invention would become.

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