The unintended consequence of a headache cure invented one of the most popular products in the world

philmckinney | June 2, 2014

Article

Coca Cola

Coca Cola is the most famous soft drink in existence and has penetrated almost every corner of the globe. What many do not know that it started as the unintended consequence when someone was attempting to invent a headache cure.

Back in the 1880s John Pemberton, a struggling pharmacist, was attempting to develop a natural cure for headaches by mixing coca leaves and cola nuts. However a lab assistant accidently mixed the concoction with carbonated water and hence the first coke drink resulted.

Though Pemberton sold the product at the soda fountain attached to his drug store. He made claims that coca cola would cure a variety of diseases, a dubious proposition at best. His claims were buttressed by the belief at the time that carbonated water was good for health.

A man named Asa Candler, through means that could be considered dodgy, took control of the product shortly after Pemberton’s sudden death two years after the drink was first created. His total investment outlay was just $2,300.

Candler continued to market coca cola as a drug, claiming that it was a cure for headaches and fatigue. However, in order to pay for the Spanish American War, Congress passed a tax on all medicines. Chandler, after a lengthy court battle, managed to get his drink reclassified as a simple beverage.

Over a century and quite a bit of growth later, the exact formula for coca cola is still a closely guarded secret, treated by the company like the government treats nuclear launch codes. It is likely a little more sophisticated than the carbonated drink that John Pemberton first sold almost 130 years ago.

The lesson learned? The obvious assumption is that accidents are failures.  Look beyond the obvious and pivot your idea. Its the unnatural next step when an accident presents a new opportunity.

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