The story of how Coca-Cola came to establish itself in Canada is the story of how Coca-Cola became the globally iconic brand that we all know and love today. While officially The Coca-Cola Company and Canada have shared a special relationship since 1906, in truth the connection between the two has thrived for much longer.
The first record of Coca-Cola being available in Canada dates back to 1892 — just six years after the beverage was first served at Jacobs’ Pharmacy on Peachtree & Marietta streets in Atlanta — when a Boston family acquired the sales rights for Coca-Cola syrup to soda fountains in New England as well as the Maritime provinces and Newfoundland. While we don’t know for sure if any sales were made at this time, by 1897 a company report from then-president Asa G. Candler remarks, “Coca-Cola is now sold to some extent in every state and in almost all the cities of the United States, and in some of the cities in Canada, and in the city of Honolulu, H.I.”
During this period before Coca-Cola’s official entry into the Canadian market, syrup wholesalers in border states were filling the niche and exporting the product across to Canadian soda fountains. In 1900 when Asa’s son Charles Howard Candler visited Vancouver and Victoria to explore syrup export opportunities, he was pleased to find that Coca-Cola was already widely available in both cities and very popular. The popularity of Coca-Cola in Canada at this time cannot be understated as the cost of exporting across the border effectively doubled the price consumers paid in Canada — a whopping 10 cents versus the 5 cents that Americans enjoyed — and yet Canadian patrons were still more than happy to pay it.
The Canadian demand for Coca-Cola was undeniable and so in January of 1906 the first bottling facility of Coca-Cola outside the United States opened at 65 Bellwoods Avenue in Toronto. The success enjoyed by the small factory was immediate as it struggled to keep up with the orders that flooded in from all around the city as well as neighbouring communities. Toronto bottled Coca-Cola was so popular in 1908 that it was being sold as far away as Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. It was already clear that one bottling facility would not suffice and certainly with the entry into Quebec a local facility would be required. That facility would open on April 1, 1909 at Rue Aylmer and Rue Sherbrooke in Montreal which itself was so quickly swamped with orders that it had to relocate to a larger space just a year later.
As the popularity of Coca-Cola grew and consolidated in Central and Eastern Canada, the company’s attention began to turn towards Manitoba where the opportunity to refresh Western Canadians was also growing. Construction on a Winnipeg bottling facility began in 1914. Due to difficulties with construction during the First World War the plant required much of the company’s attention, so much so that Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Canada actually moved to Winnipeg at the time (where they would remain until 1923). By April of 1915 however the plant was ready to open and yet again the pleasant problem of overwhelming sales forced the plant to be expanded twice in its first four years. Coca-Cola’s success in Canada was unbelievable, and by 1921 the company’s Winnipeg facility was so busy that it out-produced both the company’s Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama bottling plants combined.
Today Coca-Cola employs over 6,300 Canadians and operates over 60 facilities across Canada as well as six manufacturing plants, operating a nationwide network that is able to serve Canadians in every province and territory. Considering the long and happy history Coca-Cola has enjoyed in Canada, it’s no wonder that Coca-Cola stands today as Canada’s favourite brand of soft drink.