For God, Country & Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes It
by Mark Pendergrast
|Basic Books, 2013, 3rd edition, ISBN-13: 978-0465029174|
How did an innocuous soft drink, more than 99% sweetened water, come to be regarded as “the sublimated essence of all that America stands for”?
For God, Country & Coca-Cola is a cultural, social, and economic history of America as seen through the green glass of a Coke bottle. And what a quintessentially American tale it is. Coca-Cola began humbly as a patent medicine amid the fervor and chaos of Reconstruction Atlanta. A shrewd marketer saw its value as a beverage, and it rapidly grew through the Gilded Age to become the dominant consumer product of the American Century and beyond.
The key to Coca-Cola’s success was ubiquitous advertising, as the Company’s master myth-makers first created and then quenched the thirst of a nation. And when World War II carried American troops overseas, the soft drink went as well, laying the foundation for an enduring and lucrative presence.
Drawing on previously untapped archival sources, For God, Country & Coca-Cola paints vivid portraits of the entrepreneurs who led the Company: pious Methodist Asa Candler, who nourished the fledgling enterprise across the threshold of a century; cigar-chomping Robert Woodruff, who hosted presidents at his Georgia plantation; the aristocratic Roberto Goizueta, whose cosmopolitan background gave him the vision to reach global markets; aggressive Doug Ivester, the self-styled “wolf” who declared war on other soft drinks; Doug Daft, the hapless Australian under whom morale plummeted amidst lawsuits and allegations; Neville Isdell, the Irish Coke veteran who turned the company around; and Muhtar Kent, the aggressive Turkish-American who plans to double global sales and income by the year 2020.
All have left indelible imprints on Coca-Cola. Here, too, is a colorful supporting cast of hustlers, ad men, zealots, and capitalist missionaries who have made the soft drink the most recognizable trademark in the world. Despite its occasionally tarnished image, the Company has marched zealously forward with its cherished product — and its global conquest. As it fights the critics who blame Coca-Cola for the obesity epidemic, the Company has diversified, owning 500 brands that offer 3,500 beverages world-wide, and over a quarter of them are low- or no-calories drinks.
Provocative, controversial, and always entertaining, For God, Country & Coca-Cola reveals how Coke has irrevocably transformed our world. As family saga, cultural history, and, finally, the complete story of an American icon, this book is “the Real Thing.”
What the Reviewers Say:
“A detailed and marvelously entertaining history…a book as substantial and satisfying as its subject is (at least in nutritional terms) inconsequential.” — Lawrence Dietz, Los Angeles Times
“Behind the glitz and fanfare, the bubbly brown beverage has had a tortured and controversy-filled history. It is meticulously chronicled in a new unauthorized account, For God, Country & Coca-Cola.” — Michael J. McCarthy, The Wall Street Journal
“A thoroughly researched, engaging chronicle of what Fortune Magazine on its May cover proclaims to be ‘the world’s best brand’.” — Dean Narciso, Columbus Dispatch
“In For God, Country & Coca-Cola, Mark Pendergrast has written an encyclopedic history of Coke and its subculture, and used Coca-Cola as a metaphor for the growth of modern capitalism itself. His research and storytelling skills are prodigious.” — Robert Kuttner, Washington Post
“A meticulously researched history [with] engrossing passages….Mr. Pendergrast also aggressively sets the record straight about the birth of Coke, shattering company myths.” — Diana B. Henriques, New York Times Book Review
“In For God, Country & Coca-Cola, author Mark Pendergrast combines lively writing and extensive research to tell the story of the caramel-colored drink that grew into a worldwide corporation and cultural phenomenon. Like its subject, Pendergrast’s entertaining book can claim to be the real thing.” — Tom Frazier, USA Today
“The book is full of wonderful stories and tidbits…. when Pendergrast reports the Cokelore he has gathered so assiduously, he is superb.” — John Shelton Reed, Washington Monthly
“By the time we move on to Coke’s globe-drenching present, we have learned to trust Pendergrast’s thorough research, lively style and sense of perspective. [His book] is an epic, unbelievably grand in scope and implication.” — William Craig, Valley News
“As Atlanta native Mark Pendergrast tells us in For God, Country & Coca-Cola, an obsession with growth has been a company hallmark for most of the past century. Pendergrast’s account is a good deal more intriguing than the sanitized corporate history Coke peddles at its $15 million World of Coca-Cola museum.” — Chuck Hawkins, Business Week
“It is easy to trivialize soda…but as Mark Pendergrast demonstrates, to the people at Coke it is a deadly serious business…. He succeeds admirably in demonstrating…how Coke conquered the world.” — Robert Sobel, Philadelphia Inquirer
From the Amazon.com web site: A reader from Wyandotte, Michigan, December 16, 1998 — “An excellent and entertaining book! I read this book and simply couldn’t put it down! I bought 8 copies of it to give to family and friends as gifts. I’ll never look at a A reader from Wyandotte, Michigan, December 16, 1998 — “An excellent and entertaining book! I read this book and simply couldn’t put it down! I bought 8 copies of it to give to family and friends as gifts. I’ll never look at a Coca-Cola product the same way again. From a business or historical perspective, this is a great read!”