How Coke got its curves: Coca-Cola's contour bottle celebrates 100 years

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

How Coke got its curves: Coca-Cola's contour bottle celebrates 100 years

Related tags Bottle Coca-cola

Coca-Cola has launched a global campaign featuring icons such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Ray Charles, as it celebrates the 100th birthday of its bottle. 

The design was created in Indiana in 1915, by the Root Glass Company.

The Coke Bottle 100 campaign will include an art exhibition at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, a traveling art tour, 14 new television and digital films, the ‘Kissed By’ campaign featuring iconic celebrities and a Coca-Cola bottle app which draws on the company’s archives.

The birth of the bottle

Prior to 1915, Coca-Cola had been sold in straight-sided bottles. However, there were concerns that the design was not distinctive, and susceptible to copy-cat brands. So Coca-Cola challenged manufacturers to come up with a new design.

The brief was for a design, "so distinctive that it could be recognized by touch alone and so unique that it could be identified when shattered on the ground".

The winning bottle was born at the Root Glass Company in Terre Haute, Indiana, on  November 16, 1915 (today there is a historical marker at the site of the former Root Glass Factory). Having been approved and patented by Coca-Cola, it was introduced in 1916.

Earl R. Dean, an employee at Root Glass, is credited with the design. He and his team based their creation on the picture of a cocoa pod in the Encyclopedia Britannica, and created a prototype. After the bottle was chosen by Coca-Cola, Dean was offered either a $500 bonus or lifetime job at Root Glass (he chose the latter).

In the 1930s, The Root Glass Company was bought out by Owens-Illinois Glass Company.

The first design was slightly wider than bottles today – it was narrowed to make it compatible with bottling equipment.

coke contour first bottle wider
The first Coca-Cola bottle

The contour bottle, with the writing ‘Coca-Cola’ on it, was trademarked in 1960. In 1977 the bottle without words (and therefore the shape itself) was trademarked.

In 2000, the bottle was improved to provide better impact resistance and reduce the weight and cost. The ‘ultra-glass’ contour bottle cut off 20% of the weight, and was made 40% stronger.

Coke Bottle 100

Today, the company champions the bottle’s "unmistakable curves and a distinctive contour".

The Coke Bottle 100 campaign will include an art exhibition at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. The four-part exhibition (entitled ‘The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100) will include two original Andy Warhol Coke Bottle paintings alongside other bottle-inspired artworks and photographs. There will also be design sketches and prototypes of the original bottle. The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday.

More Coca-Cola bottle art will be displayed in a traveling art exhibition, focusing on art and popular culture. It will travel 62,000 miles around the globe, visiting more than 15 countries.

The ‘Kissed By’ campaign will show images of stars – such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Ray Charles – being ‘kissed’ by the Coca-Cola bottle.

Marilyn Monroe, 1953

A new app will allow consumers to follow an interactive journey through Coca-Cola’s archives in Atlanta.

Coca-Cola will also release 14 television and digital films, a book about the bottle and a music anthem from 19-year-old Canadian singer/songwriter Francesco Yates called ‘Nobody Like You.’ The anthem, which debuts today, will be used on radio and television commercials. 

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