From Grocery Shelves To Pop Culture: A Century of Coca-Cola Bottles This week is the anniversary of a bottle designed to be "so distinctive that it could be recognized by touch alone and so unique that it could be identified when shattered on the ground."
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From Grocery Shelves To Pop Culture: A Century of Coca-Cola Bottles

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From Grocery Shelves To Pop Culture: A Century of Coca-Cola Bottles

From Grocery Shelves To Pop Culture: A Century of Coca-Cola Bottles

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

I'm going to confess a pet peeve. Here at NPR, we use the word iconic a lot. But for this story, it is completely warranted.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And for fast refreshment, there's just nothing like a frosty bottle of Coca-Cola.

SHAPIRO: The, yes, iconic glass bottle of Coke is turning 100-years-old. Ryan Delaney of member station WFYI reports.

RYAN DELANEY, BYLINE: It's 1915, and a bottle of Coca-Cola costs just a nickel. As the soft drink gains in popularity, it faces a growing number of competitors, knock-offs even trying to copy Coke's logo. So according to Coca-Cola historian Ted Ryan, it decides to come up with packaging that can't be duplicated.

TED RYAN: The company issued a creative brief. It was wonderfully simple, that creative brief. And that went to eight glass companies across America.

DELANEY: Workers at Root Glass Company here in Terre Haute, Ind., got that request and began flipping through the encyclopedia at the local library, landing on the cocoa pod. Though not an ingredient of the soda, they designed their bottle based off the pod's ribs and bulging middle. It won over Coke executives in Atlanta. Kevin O'Neill was an ad executive who now teaches at Syracuse University. He equates the Coke bottle design with the ubiquitous VW Beetle for recognizable brand shapes.

KEVIN O'NEILL: That's charming, isn't it? It wasn't designed at some highfalutin, you know, graphic design studio in SoHo. It was designed in the heart of the heart of the country.

BOB BAESLER: We've probably gone through about six pallets. The first month, they were picking them up. People were buying four, five, six packs at a time.

DELANEY: That's Bob Baesler who owns Baesler's Market in Terre Haute. He's talking about special commemorative Coke bottles with Terre Haute stamped on them.

BAESLER: Coke has been popular in Terre Haute for a long time.

DELANEY: It was 100 years ago this week that the contoured bottle earned a patent and has starred in ads ever since. By World War II, Coke bottle sales had ballooned into the billions. Americans mostly consume Coke out of aluminum or plastic today, but the contoured glass bottle remains a part of Americana that's readily recognized around the world. For NPR News, I'm Ryan Delaney.

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