The story of the much-loved drink dates back to 1886, when the curiosity of pharmacist Dr. John C. Pemberton in Atlanta led him to create the distinctive taste of the carbonated drink. He first prepared flavored syrup, which he took to his neighborhood pharmacy and mixed it with carbonated water. Everyone who tried it thought it tasted great. Dr. Pemberton's partner and accountant, Frank M. Robinson, worked on naming the drink Coca-Cola as well as designing the vision, which is still used today. The American brand is recognized worldwide and is sold in over 200 countries.
The product was launched in Bulgaria only in 1966, when a factory for soft drinks was built in Plovdiv. It was the first in the Eastern Bloc countries to produce Coca-Cola.
The main credit for its construction goes to Georgi Naidenov - General Director of Texim Foreign Trade Enterprise. Mayor Ivan Panev, Kostadin Gyaurov and Georgi Karamanev, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, also lent a hand. The director of the company was Hristo Naidenov. The best machines arrived in Plovdiv from Europe. The building was a real miracle. The first aluminum joinery was installed there, the first carpet was installed. The company was also the first in Bulgaria with its own bus for its employees. The plant's car park numbered over 500 cars. Every quarter, due to overfulfillment of the plan, the workers received the 4th salary, and with an average of BGN 120, theirs was about BGN 170. All major similar enterprises in the country from Sofia, Varna, Ruse, Burgas, Tolbukhin (Dobrich) subsequently passed under the auspices of the Plovdiv plant.
The company worked with local raw materials and imports of Schweps concentrate and Coca-Cola extract. The credit for the entry of this mysterious drink in our country belongs to Toncho Mihailov, a technologist in the soft drinks division of the Bulgarian company Texim. The story began quite by accident in a Parisian bistro. There Toncho Mihailov bought a bottle of Fanta. He really liked the drink and he asked his French hosts to take him to the manufacturer. That's how he ended up at the local Coca-Cola branch. At the factory Toncho Mihailov met the representative of the drink for France Alexander Makinsky - Russian knyaz, whose family emigrated to Paris in 1917, with whom they quickly became friends and decided to negotiate the production of Coca-Cola in Bulgaria. The Russian called on the phone at the headquarters in Brussels and invited the vice-president of Coca-Cola in Sofia on behalf of the kind Mr. Mihailov. And Mr. Mihailov understood that he had made a big mistake! He didn’t have the authority to invite even a general employee of the company, let alone two vice presidents. He returned to Bulgaria and made a thorough report on his stay in Paris. But he "forgot" to write about the invitations. However, time passed and a call was received from Paris - the representatives of the American company offered to come visit us. Then the technologist confessed to the director, who in turn undertook to present the visit to the First in the country. After the meeting, Todor Zhivkov allowed the production in Bulgaria.
The contract for the import of the concentrate for the drink was signed on August 1, 1965. It also included a clause according to which all socialist countries that signed contracts with Coca-Cola for the production of the company's drinks after Bulgaria had to pay us royalties. The Americans accepted the clause, but Georgi Naidenov crossed it out with the words: “How will we ask for a commission from the USSR, they will put us in prison.” In its agreement with Coca-Cola, Bulgaria was ahead of all other countries in the socialist camp. Even Yugoslavia was a year or two behind us. Interestingly, even Greece began production of the drink eight years after our country.
However, after an official visit to Moscow in 1969, Todor Zhivkov returned and closed Texim, which has long been a thorn in the side of Big Brother. Georgi Naidenov was convicted and sent to prison for official crimes. Bulgaria also didn’t have enough currency to buy Coca-Cola concentrate. Therefore, in order to maintain its presence in our market, the American company found an unusual solution - barter. In exchange for the drink, our country began to export strawberry jam from Pazardzhik and tomato concentrate and so on until the end of the communist rule in the country.
Then in 1992 The Coca-Cola Company officially opened an office in the country, and then began production in Kostinbrod, the largest production center of Coca-Cola in Bulgaria. Subsequently, the production in Plovdiv was gradually directed there.
At the moment, the construction of a large residential complex is planned on the plot of the former plant from the beginning of last year.
The text is based on information from the "Encyclopedia of Plovdiv" by Bozhidar Totev.