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Minute Maid: The Day Coca-Cola Became the Company It Is Today

By:  Ted Ryan Dec 21, 2012
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On December 30, 1960, The Coca-Cola Company took a giant leap in becoming a total beverage company. That's the date the company completed the acquisition of The Minute Maid Company. To understand the transformative nature of this purchase, it's important to look back at the slow pace of change for Coca-Cola before that point. 

From Fountain Soda to Bottled Soda and Beyond

The history of The Coca-Cola Company has had three distinct phases. The first phase follows the company’s early years at the soda fountain. For a few decades after the first serving of Coca-Cola at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in 1886, Americans were able to purchase Coca-Cola only at soda fountains. The growth of the business as a fountain-only product was astounding, and by 1898, Coca-Cola was sold in every state in the nation. With that vast reach, the company realized that the possibility for growth was phenomenal.

In 1899, Coca-Cola signed a contract that established the framework for the local-bottling of Coke. This opened up a new market for the company. While fountain sales were still more substantial, over the next decade bottling franchises sprang up across the United States. A few years later, in 1906, bottlers were established in Canada, Cuba and Panama. Then, in 1916, Coca-Cola introduced the contour bottle, ushering in the second phase of business for the company. While the Coca-Cola sold at soda fountains was a critical part of the business, bottle sales surpassed fountain sales by 1927.

For 50 years, The Coca-Cola Company sold a single product, Coca-Cola, in a single package: the 6.5-ounce contour bottle, at a price of 5 cents. These years were some of the best and most innovative for The Coca-Cola Company, and they led to developments such as the six-pack, coin-operated vending, and a variety of creative merchandising, advertising and delivery options.

Growing into a Global Company

The third phase of business began in 1955, when the company introduced king- and family-sized packages in the U.S. At the same time, the company rolled out Fanta Orange in Milan, Italy. It didn't take long for the new packaging and beverages to become popular around the globe. With these changes, The Coca-Cola Company began to reinvent itself, offering several package sizes and two brands of beverages. And more changes were around the corner.

Around this time, the Boston-based National Research Corporation (NRC) had developed a flavorful orange juice powder, using a high-vacuum process. So when the U.S. Army issued an open order for 500,000 pounds of powdered orange juice, the NRC organized the Florida Foods Corporation, which won the Army contract. But unfortunately this occurred in 1945, and with the end of the war in site, the Army canceled the contract. Despite the setback, the new company plunged ahead and began researching a new product: frozen concentrate. The company hired a Boston advertising agency to find a name for the beverage, and came up with the name Minute Maid, from the city famous for its Minutemen.

A few short years later, Minute Maid orange juice was in high demand. Bing Crosby even praised its “fresh-squeezed” taste on his radio program beginning in 1948. The following year, The Florida Foods Corporation changed its name to the Minute Maid Company. By this time, there were 30 brands of concentrated orange juice on the market, but Minute Maid accounted for a third of sales in the category. The company also expanded its line to include grapefruit, orange/grapefruit, pineapple, tangerine, grape and lemonade concentrate.

A Watershed Moment for Coca-Cola

The Minute Maid Company had grown into a solid organization with a reputation for quality and the potential for success. Realizing this, Coca-Cola purchased the company, marking The Coca-Cola Company’s first venture outside the carbonated drink area. On December 30, 1960, Minute Maid officially merged into The Coca-Cola Company via a stock transfer. Under the merger, Minute Maid operated as a separate company from the parent company.

This purchase was a watershed event for Coca-Cola. Suddenly, a company that had sold a single product in a single package at a single price for years had taken the first steps toward becoming the leading nonalcoholic beverage company in the world. The next year, Coca-Cola introduced Sprite. Following those successes, the company introduced TaB, its first low-calorie drink. The spirit of innovation that was taking over was evident in several of the company's markets, where countries like Japan were leaders in brand expansion.