Books by Frederick Allen

Released: Aug. 3, 1994

An informative and agreeably anecdotal history of the Atlanta- based multinational that, despite the best efforts of archrival PepsiCo, continues to bestride the global soft-drink trade like a colossus. Drawing on a wealth of archival sources and personal interviews, CNN commentator Allen offers a generation-spanning account of how Coca-Cola Co. (which turned 100 in 1986) managed to achieve cultural significance as well as commercial success. While he covers much the same ground as Mark Pendergrast in For God, Country, and Coca-Cola (1993), Allen focuses to good effect on the individuals who have played leading roles in corporate affairs: founding father Asa Candler, a dour hustler who acquired the rights to Pemberton's Tonic, an obscure patent medicine that became the basis of a beverage empire; Robert Woodruff, a banker's son who did more than anyone to build the company's extraordinary consumer franchise; and Cuban-born Roberto Goizueta, the incumbent CEO who, notwithstanding a notable blunder with the flagship brand, has kept Coke on a fast upward track. As its subtitle suggests, Allen attributes Coca-Cola's accomplishments to dedication and merchandizing savvy, not to the exotic ingredients in a soft-drink recipe that's been altered a dozen or more times over the years. In this account, moreover, the company's stewards proved themselves alertly opportunistic during WW II, classically pragmatic when they became early backers of America's civil rights movement, astute students of political risk in any era or venue, and aggressive strategists in the ongoing cola wars. Allen effectively ends his coverage with Woodruff's death at 95 in 1985, touching only lightly on events of the past decade. An engaging audit of a corporate phenomenon that wisely eschews what-it-all-means analysis in favor of a vivid narrative that can speak for itself. (80 photos, not seen) ($30,000 ad promo; author tour) Read full book review >