You'll Never Guess The Inspiration Behind The Original Coca-Cola Bottle Shape

Established in 1886, Coca-Cola was sold only at soda fountains for its first 13 years, according to the Coca-Cola Company. But by 1899, the sweet and bubbly caramel-hued soft drink had already become so iconic that it made sense for the Coca-Cola Company to license bottlers to sell Coca-Cola, which it did, starting in 1899. For the first dozen or so years, bottled Coke came in straight-sided bottles that were generic other than an emblazoned Coca-Cola logo in its now-distinctive Spencerian script. It was easy to copy, and some of Coke's competitors did just that. It wasn't until 1912 that the company first began entertaining the idea of using the bottle, itself, as a brand identifier.

In 1915, the company held a contest among a select group of glassmakers to design a "bottle so distinct that you would recognize it by feel in the dark or lying broken on the ground." The winner was a company so confident in the distinctness of the design it came up with that it went to the trouble and expense of applying for a U.S. patent for it. That the patent was granted, as it was on November 16, 2015, per Time, presumes the bottle's design was unique, according to CalPoly Pomona. Several months later, in early 1916, a committee composed of bottlers and Coke officials came to the same conclusion, selecting the Root Glass Company's design and leaving one to wonder whether they knew the real inspiration for the Coca-Cola bottle shape?

It's shaped like a ... what?

See those cocoa-bean pods? Now, squint a bit at the green one, and see if you don't start to notice the resemblance to ... a Coca-Cola bottle. Right? Well, not the whole bottle so much as the portion below the neck, where the label goes. And not so much the color, which is brighter than Coca-Cola's trademark Georgia Green (formerly German Green). But, oh, those grooves! Root Glass Company's grooved design of the original Coca-Cola bottle took its inspiration from the vertical grooves that line a cocoa-bean pod. And why a cocoa-bean pod? Turns out that Root's design team was under the misimpression Coca-Cola was made with cocoa beans, according to the Coca-Cola Company.

There's never been cocoa in Coca-Cola, which got its name from the coca leaf and the kola nut, per Snopes. But perhaps that only lends further credence to the argument that the Coca-Cola bottle design was so unique that it not only deserved patent protection, but also trademark protection. In fact, the Coke bottle was given trademark protection in 1961, which it desperately needed at the time since its patent had expired (per Coca-Cola Company). While lawyers for Coke led with the "distinctively shaped contour" of the bottle, what really won over the Patent Office was a study that showed that as far back as 1949, 99% of Americans could identify a Coke bottle by its shape, alone.