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The End of an Era for Coca-Cola

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In a time when we seem all about the green movement of recycling, news quickly spread at the end of last year when, on October 9, 2012, Coca-Cola filled its last-ever lot of soda bottled in returnable 6.5-ounce glass bottles. While Coca-Cola factories are throughout the nation, the Winona plant was the last to fill this kind of glass bottle Coke.

Perhaps we are not as into recycling as we believe. A mere two-percent of the Winona plant’s business came from refilling the antique bottles, last produced in the 1960s.

It’s the end of an era for Coca-Cola. For the first time in 80 years, it’s now impossible to buy American Coca-Cola in 6.5 oz. bottles. The 8oz bottle has become the standard issue since 2000.

evolution of the coca cola bottle

The Coca-Cola glass bottle is synonymous with the brand. It was created by a bottle designer by the name of Earl R. Dean. A competition held by the Coca-Cola Company in 1915, asked its bottle suppliers to create a new bottle for their beverage that was distinguishable from the competitors and “a bottle which a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark and so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.”

Earl R. Dean and the supervisor of the bottle molding room elected to base the bottle’s design on the soda’s two ingredients: coca leaf or kola nut, but were uncertain what either ingredient looked like. They took a field trip to the Emeline Fairbanks Memorial Library and still had no conclusion on either’s appearance.  Dean, however, was inspired by a picture in the Encyclopedia Britannica of a gourd-shaped coca pod. He did a rough sketch and returned to the plant and was given approval.

Interestingly enough, the prototype never made it into production due to the middle diameter of the bottle being larger than its base, making it unstable on the conveyor belt. In 1919, after modification of the middle diameter, Dean’s bottle was chosen and put into production. By 1920, it was the brand’s standard. Today it is one of the most recognized packages on the market worldwide.

Dean won the choice of either a lifetime job at the Root Glass Company or a $500 bonus. He took the lifetime job and remained employed until the 1930s when Owens-Illinois Glass Company purchased the Root Glass Company.

In 2009, keeping with the bottle’s original design, Coca-Cola created aluminum bottles as an alternative to the glass bottles.

The plant in Winona, Minnesota sold most of the bottles of the final lot to the public for $20 plus shipping and handling  Six of them are on display in perpetuity at the World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta. The very last bottle produced by the Winona Coca-Cola Factory brought $2,000 at auction with proceeds being donated to the Lake Winona Pedestrian and Bicycle Path restoration project.

It’s an ending that thankfully ends with the 6.5 oz bottles and not the brand, Coca-Cola.

Have your tried Coca-Cola in your cooking? I highly recommend this Coca-Cola BBQ Chicken Casserole Recipe.


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Maribelle Webster

Monday 10th of March 2014

I remember picking up Coke bottles to return to make money so I could pay to get in the skating rink. Was very busy because I skated 3 nights a wk. You didn't have to take them to recycle, just turn them in at any store.


Tuesday 11th of March 2014

Those were such good times. I remember skating. It was a feeling of freedom..and turning in the bottles at the store was so easy!

Celebrate Woman

Wednesday 20th of February 2013

Amazing post! What a great piece of history and factual abundance on the Coca-Cola bottle! I love it!

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