In 1924 Robert Woodruff, president of The Coca-Cola Company, stood at a train station in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and was amazed. Here in subzero weather people were drinking Coca-Cola. Woodruff knew that Canadians had a thirst for the drink – as sales were climbing throughout Canada – but it was the fact that an ice-cold Coca-Cola was being enjoyed in such a cold part of the world that gave him pause.
Woodruff had become the President of Coca-Cola just the previous year and Moose Jaw was just one stop on his cross country trip to meet bottlers and survey how the soft drink business was fairing “up North”. The advertising slogan ‘Thirst Knows No Season’ had been used since 1921, but it took this trip to Canada and Robert Woodruff himself, to push the teams in Atlanta to step up winter advertising and promote Coca-Cola as a year round drink.
Soon posters and print ads featured skiers, snow and ice skaters enjoying Coca-Cola in the outdoors. The slogan took on even more meaning as the teams in Atlanta pointed to the quickly growing bottling business in Canada to urge on bottlers in warmer climates. Speaking at a Bottlers Convention in 1925 Harrison Jones, a vice-president in charge of Coca-Cola sales, recalled being in Winnipeg at a skating rink in zero degree temperatures while 2,400 bottles of Coca-Cola were sold. It was official, bottlers in warmer climates no longer had an excuse not to sell Coca-Cola in any type of weather!
This revelation appears to have been something Canadian bottlers had known all along as they adapted to the colder temperatures when delivering Coca-Cola over the vast Canadian landscape. Fearing the drinks would freeze and shatter, bottlers became inventive as they prepared cases of Coca-Cola for travel in the colder weather. Some would put the cases around stoves in the plant to keep the drink warm until they were put into a truck with a heater and set off for deliveries. Other bottlers paid to feed local farmers’ horses in the winter so the horses could pull sleds for deliveries in the snowy weather. No matter what, those bottles of Coca-Cola were going to be delivered!
Canada’s sales numbers quickly became historic. In 1927 the Montreal plant bottled 380,000 litres of Coca-Cola, within 3 years they had bottled nearly 2 million litres! By 1934, the Montreal bottling plant was the largest producer in the world and December was one of its best sales months. Print advertising was quickly developed comparing Montreal and New Orleans, proof that Coca-Cola could sell regardless of the climate.
While Coca-Cola may have been refreshing Canadians for 120 years, Canadians have been proving Coca-Cola can be refreshing year-round for just as long. Those first Canadian bottlers knew then what we all take for granted today, that Coca-Cola is a drink for any place, anywhere – no matter the season, weather or temperature. It took Canada to show Robert Woodruff that thirst truly knows no season.
Justine Fletcher is an archive specialist at The Coca-Cola Company and is currently helping Coca-Cola Canada celebrate 120 years of refreshing Canadians as part of Canada 150.