The soda bottle’s iconic design was incorrectly modeled on the shape of a cocoa bean.
During the early 20th century, the Coca-Cola Company’s signature product faced a flood of imitators packaging their soft drinks in similarly shaped generic bottles. To distinguish Coke from its rivals, the company invited glass makers to submit prototypes for a signature bottle that would be so “distinctive that it could be recognized by touch alone and so unique it could be identified when shattered on the ground.”
After his company entered the competition, Earl R. Dean, shop supervisor for the Root Glass Company in Indiana, searched the dictionary for “coca,” the plant containing the psychoactive drug cocaine, then an active ingredient in Coca-Cola. Instead, he stumbled across the “cocoa” plant, which is used to make chocolate. Studying the cocoa bean’s grooved contours, Dean decided to base the bottle’s appearance on the plant’s unique shape.
In 1915 the Coca-Cola Company formally adopted Dean’s cocoa-inspired bottle. Although altered over the past century, the silhouette remains as easily recognizable as it did then.