by Laurina Santi
Throughout the 20th century, many new inventions and products originally discovered or created in the United States have spread throughout the world. One prominent product was Coca Cola, a soft drink consumed by many in the United States and once speculated as able to treat many illnesses. Coca Cola’s popularity in the United States enabled its makers to seek out markets in Europe, leading to what the French referred to as the “coca colanization” of France (Marling).
The history of Coca Cola dates back to the late 19th century; however, Coca Cola did not arrive in France until 1953. Coca Cola, before it came to France, was a very popular drink in the United States since it was the first soft drink to be widely marketed. Originally designed from a French coca wine, Coca Cola was able to catch on so quickly because it was the first major flavorful non alcoholic beverage widely consumed, and it became even more popular during Prohibition. When Coca Cola became mass produced, it influenced the popularization of American capitalist culture and eventually became one of the most well known American brands in the world. As Richard Kuisel points out, Coca Cola was associated with “mass advertising, a high consumption society, and free enterprise”(98), and eventually played a major role in the way the world saw America.
Coca Cola came to France during the Cold War, and that influenced its popularity. The Cold War served as a time for America to prove itself and the benefits of a capitalist society over a communist one. Coca Cola brought money to the places where it came, thus demonstrating how this iconic American product could benefit the places where it was marketed. Coca Cola, however ,was not very popular in France, and even still to this day is not as popular in France as in other Western European nations. Because Coca Cola represented America to its core, a capitalist society, Coca Cola’s move into France was met with some resistance: “Barricades threatened to appear in Paris when it became known that Coca-Cola requested a license to bottle their drink there” (Lienhard 1). The French public did not want France to be overtaken by American enterprises and so fought to prevent the mass production of Coca Cola in France. Today, however, there is a Coca Cola factory in France, which has increased the production and consumption of Coca Cola, although the recipe varies slightly from the original American version.
Today the consumption of Coca Cola has again become a subject for discussion but this time based on a similar issue raised in the United States: does consumption of sugary soft drinks contribute to obesity? Many in France are now looking towards a ban of Coca Cola in France because of claims that it is unhealthy and will contribute to an increase in obesity. Although France already has a much lower rate of obesity than the United States, due to a better diet and fewer fast food chains, the French government wants to keep rate lower. To combat the concern, Coca Cola has created a new, healthier version of the original drink to market in France and so maintain its foothold there. Cola still represents America to the French people.
Kuisel, Richard F. “Coca-Cola and the Cold War: The French Face Americanization, 1948-1953.” French Historical Studies 17.1 (1991): 96-116. Print.
Lienhard, John H. “No. 1985: Coca-Colanizing France.” Web. 30 Nov. 2010. http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1985.htm.
Marling, William. “Coca-colonization.” American Quarterly 48.4 (1996): 731-39. Print.