Coca-Cola first arrived in the U.K. back in 1900. Charles Candler, the son of the founder of The Coca-Cola Company brought with him on a visit from the U.S.A. 5 gallons of Coca-Cola syrup.

It was first sold on 31st August 1900, but didn’t go on regular sale until the 1920’s, when it was first sold at outlets in London that included Selfridge’s and The London Coliseum.

The Company started bottling operations in Britain in 1934 after they sent a man named Hamilton Horsey to interview possible customers and suppliers that included Mr Selfridge. The first bottler in the U.K. was R. Fry & Co of Brighton. Although they were the bottler, Coca-Cola themselves took up the roll of selling. Until their first delivery vehicles arrived, the company made deliveries in London by Taxi Cab.

By 1937 there were 7 bottling companies in the U.K. but by the 1950’s there were 9 which are listed below.

Coca-Cola Southern Bottlers Ltd., London

Coca-Cola Northern Bottlers Ltd., Liverpool

Delecta Table Waters Ltd., Norwich, Norfolk

Coca-Cola Bottling Company (Oxford) Ltd., Oxford

Dee Cestrian & Laycock, Chester

Coca-Cola Bottlers (Scotland) Ltd., Glasgow, Scotland

Ulster Iced Drinks, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Aldcroft Downward Ltd., Douglas, Isle of Man

Le Riches Stores, St. Helier, Island of Jersey

 

In 1961, Britain became the first country outside of North America and Canada to offer Coca-Cola in cans. It was initially test marketed in three areas, and the cans were 12 fluid ounces in capacity and had the large diamond design with the Coca-Cola logo through the centre. When the cans passed the test stage they were then offered for general sale in 11 ½ ounce cans. These cans were very similar to the test cans but had the addition of a silhouette of the bottle behind the logo. The cans were sold in corrugated cardboard cartons that held 24 cans and came with 2 church key openers.

During the early years the only product offered was Coca-Cola, but by the 1960’s other brands emerged including TaB, Fresca, and Fanta.

During the late 1960s to the early 1980s saw the beginning of several trends which came to fruition with the formation of CCSB. The number of Coca-Cola licensed bottlers fell from six in 1968 (including Northern Ireland) to three by the time Coca-Cola was considering the formation of a single bottler for Great Britain. In addition, canning was carried out by Coca-Cola itself. At the same time developments in the packaging for the growing take-home trade were developing, including plastic bottles, and the more widespread use of cans. In 1976 Coca-Cola opened its own can-filling plant at Milton Keynes, with an associated can-making plant located `through the wall’ next door, owned by Nacanco Ltd.

From 1974 to 1983, Coca-Cola had come to the view that its bottling structure was increasingly out of tune with changes in the market. The market was becoming national, with retail chains and groups of powerful buyers looking to do business with a supplier which could meet their needs nationally; returnable bottles were continuing to be replaced by other forms of packaging, with supermarkets declining to handle returnable glass bottles.

The bottling system in place for Coca-Cola’s beverages at the time meant that, in some cases, the same customers were being supplied by different bottlers, depending on their location, type of outlet and whether they were buying cans or bottles. The bottler in the southern part of Great Britain was a Grand Metropolitan plc subsidiary called Coca-Cola Soft Drinks Ltd (CCSD). Beecham Bottlers Ltd bottled and distributed Coca-Cola brands in the rest of Great Britain. Canned beverages were distributed by CCSD, Beecham Bottlers, and independently by Beecham Foods Ltd, and The Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd (CWS) bottled some Coca-Cola brands for sale in Co-operative Retail Society stores.

The result was a period of review, beginning in 1983, which led to a number of major changes. The first was in 1984 when Coca-Cola bought CCSD from Grand Metropolitan. Coca-Cola began to look for a new partner for a joint venture bottling arrangement to operate throughout Great Britain. In 1985 Coca-Cola started to look for an undertaking in Great Britain with local experience in the commercial beverages market and with existing bottling and production facilities as well as existing commercial relationships. Coca-Cola’s first choice had been the Beecham Group PLC (Beecham). Beecham, however, had declined, and Coca-Cola then looked to Cadbury Schweppes, which had a range of its own successful brands. It also had the existing facilities to undertake the bottling of Coca-Cola’s brands in the northern part of Great Britain, the area hitherto served by Beecham.

Since 1955 Pepsi was bottled and distributed in the U.K. by The Park Bottling Company. But in 1966 The Park Bottling Company was acquired by Cadbury Schweppes. The Pepsi bottling arrangement with Schweppes was terminable at two years’ notice, but on the 19th December 1985 Schweppes had given notice of termination to Pepsi, without warning, and announced that it was establishing a joint venture relationship with Coca-Cola covering all of Great Britain. This joint venture came into effect in January 1987 and was known as Coca-Cola & Schweppes Beverages Ltd.

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