Coke bottle shape created in Indiana based on a misunderstanding
It’s one of the most iconic packages ever created. One whose Indiana designers are modeled after an ingredient Thought was part of the recipe for the product it was designed for.
The history of the Coca-Cola bottle
You don’t even have to look at a coke bottle to describe its shape. All anyone has to say is the word “cola,” and you can immediately picture its hourglass-like shape with its flared top and bottom book ends and slimmer midsection in your mind. This is exactly what the owners of Coca-Cola were hoping for when they commissioned several glass manufacturers to design and manufacture a bottle for their hugely popular product. According to The Coca-Cola Company’s website, they were looking for a “bottle that was so distinctive that you would recognize it if you touched it in the dark or it was lying broken on the floor.” I’d say they got what they were looking for wanted, even if the design was right based on a happy coincidence.
Not long after its inception in the late 19th century, Coca-Cola was one of the most popular soft drinks. Back then, you could only enjoy it from a soda fountain at a restaurant or diner. The company’s owners saw an opportunity to grow their business and wanted to find a way for the public to enjoy it at home. This meant developing a bottle for storage that could be sold outside of restaurants. After the rights to bottle the product were given to various companies in the area, the first bottles looked fairly standard, and although the company created a logo for the bottles, many competing companies began imitating the design in hopes that consumers would buy their product thinking it was so coke. Because of this, it was decided that Coca-Cola needed its own distinctive bottle that would stand out from the crowd. In 1915, the company’s trustees voted to pay “up to $500” (a little over $14,300 in today’s money) to the glassmaker who created the winning design. Between eight and ten companies accepted the challenge and got to work. One of these was the Root Glass Company in Terre Haute, which developed the design that is still used today, although the inspiration behind it was a little flawed.
The designers based their concept on the “curves and grooves of the pumpkin-shaped cacao bean” because they thought cacao was one of the ingredients in the cola, presumably thanks to the word “coca” in the name. Spoiler alert, it isn’t.
Obviously, that didn’t matter and the company’s trustees voted to make the design the official packaging of their product. After the patent for the design expired in 1951, the company applied to trademark the bottle, which was a rarity at the time. In April 1961, their trademark status was granted, based on a 1949 study showing that the design had become so synonymous with the company that “less than 1% of Americans could not identify the Coke bottle by its shape alone “.
The design has remained largely unchanged since its inception, even as the company transitioned from plastic bottles to glass bottles. Even two-liter bottles feature the iconic shape, thanks to a bottle-making company here in Indiana that made the wrong assumption.
[Source: The Coca-Cola Company]