The Buzz About Citizen Coke

4 02 2015

I’m going to be co-editing a special issue of the journal Business History with my frequent research collaborator Kirsten Greer. The theme of the special issue is the intersection of business and environmental history: all of the papers in the SI will look at the historical relationship between business and the natural environment.

Because of my work on the special issue, I’ve been encouraged by the fact that Bartow Elmore’s new environmental history of the Coca-Cola company has generated extensive media attention. The degree of attention that has been paid to Citizen Coke is unusual for an academic book, especially one that is the author’s first major publication.

Here is the book’s blurb:

How did Coca-Cola build a global empire by selling a low-price concoction of mostly sugar, water, and caffeine? The easy answer is advertising, but the real formula to Coke’s success was its strategy, from the start, to offload costs and risks onto suppliers, franchisees, and the government. For most of its history the company owned no bottling plants, water sources, cane- or cornfields. A lean operation, it benefited from public goods like cheap municipal water and curbside recycling programs. Its huge appetite for ingredients gave it outsized influence on suppliers and congressional committees. This was Coca-Cola capitalism.

Elmore

Positive reviews of the book have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Business Standard. [The Business Standard review faults the book on stylistic rather than for content]. A more critical but nevertheless thoughtful review appeared in  Columbia Daily Tribune. The review published in the WSJ is favourable, which is impressive given that Elmore’s book is hardly compatible with the ideological agenda of that newspaper.  The book has also been described in media sources ranging from the Daily Mail, a middlebrow UK newspaper to the Huffington Post to Bloomberg Radio. The book has also been cited in the debates about whether to levy special taxes on sugary foods.

You can listen to Elmore talk about his research here. You can watch him here.

Anyway, the interest that Elmore’s book has generated has convinced us that our Special Issue on Business/Environmental History will be of use to a wide variety of academics.

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