The Soviet Union once exchanged their warships for Pepsi when their vodka trade was not good enough anymore (we wrote the whole story here.) They’re not the only soda company that joined the whole war thing because their rival, Coca-cola, also hopped in during World War II to make sure that all American GIs had access to their sweet sugary drinks wherever they were. They took the job seriously as they even had Coca-Cola Colonels who would make sure that no soldier would be left sodaless.
The Creation of Coca-Cola
Coca-cola was first marketed as a patent medicine in the 19th century, invented by American pharmacist John Stith Pemberton when he was addicted to morphine and was trying to find a substitute for the drug. Before its formula became a trade secret, it was originally made from coca leaves and kola nuts. Thus the brand name. Prior to his creation, there were no colas yet, making Coca-cola the first of its kind and inspiring other companies to try and imitate the product. Its inventor called it a “brain tonic and intellectual beverage,” and offered it as a medicinal treatment for headaches, stomach ailments, and fatigue. He wasn’t just making all that up. The original cola formula included cocaine extracted from the coca leaves which was legal and a widely used drug at the time. The cocaine content was steadily stepped down until 1929 when it was removed completely from the formula. You see, Prohibition had banned the production or possession of alcohol and people were turning to Coca-cola in droves to catch a buzz.
When World War II broke, Coca-Cola was already being served in 44 countries, including Canada and North America. The entry of the United States into WWII war crushed their production, cargo ships once bringing coca leaves from South America were now carrying war materials and getting torpedoed by U-boats. The company had to close down one plant completely. Because of this, the cost of soda per bottle increased too, by one penny, which was a 20% increase.
As Coca-Cola wrote, they have witnessed how families were devastated that they had to send their loved ones overseas and join the war. They began running ads showcasing Coca-cola as a patriotic brand ready to follow the American soldiers wherever they were, “reminding them of home.”