Chattanooga is the site of the World’s First Coca-Cola Bottling Company.  Before Coca-Cola first appeared in bottles, it was sold as a fountain drink for more than a decade. 

The taste of Coca-Cola was born on May 8, 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The taste originated in a three-legged brass kettle sitting in the backyard of Dr. John Stythe Pemberton.  Pemberton, a local pharmacist and concocter of medicinal beverages, stirred up a caramel-colored syrup creation that we know today as Coca-Cola.  Soon after, Pemberton began selling the drink mixed with soda water in a nearby pharmacy.

In the summer of 1899, Mr. Benjamin F. Thomas and Mr. Joseph B. Whitehead ventured down to Atlanta from Chattanooga to meet with Mr. Asa Candler. Mr. Candler had purchased the Coca-Cola Company seven years earlier and was the president of the company at the time.

When they conveyed their idea to bottle Coca-Cola to Mr. Candler, he thought they were doomed to fail.  He was concerned that if Thomas and Whitehead were allowed to bottle the product, they would lose everything they had invested. His greatest fear was that their efforts might damage the reputation of the Coca-Cola Company in the process.  After much persuasion, Candler signed a contract, selling the bottling rights to Thomas and Whitehead for $1.00 (A dollar, which by the way, he never bothered to collect).

The two new entrepreneurs returned home with renewed determination. Securing support of colleague John T. Lupton, the two opened the World’s First Coca-Cola Bottling Company.  The original facility was located at 17 Market Street where Patten Parkway now stands.  As the business continued to thrive, the plant was moved to 201 Broad Street, and finally in 1970, to its current location at 4000 Amnicola Highway.

Today the Coca-Cola umbrella covers more than 600 varieties of drink.

"We sell as many or more low-carb, no-carb and water than soft drinks today,” says Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED Division Director, Darren Hodges.

In addition to evolving their product line, Coca-Cola Bottling has of course evolved their production line to meet demands throughout the Southeast.

"Amnicola Highway that has a production center that has five hot fill lines,” explained Hodges. “We produce Powerade and juice on those lines. And we have one cold fill line that fills can of soft drinks. So Coca Cola. Diet Coke, Sprite..we produce about 38 million cases there a year."

This week, Coca-Cola Bottling celebrates their 120th anniversary with the city of Chattanooga.

"We love to think of it as a partnership. We're blessed to be in Chattanooga, we're thankful to be here for 120 years. We really couldn't ask for a better place."