Written By: Taylor Gilkison

In 1950, LIFE Photographer Mark Kauffman captured the so-called “Coca-Colonization” of the sugary soft drink’s formal introduction to France. The drink had been unofficially available for consumption in France before World War II, and the first bottle was imported to Bordeaux in 1919. However, the American company began an energetic marketing campaign in France in 1950 to maximize the popularity the drink had gained in the United States. 

Created in the late 19th century as a pseudo-medicinal beverage, Coca-Cola soon became a sweet, artificial refreshment that reflected American capitalism, culture, and society. And while Coca-Cola was initially based on French coca wine, the people of France were skeptical of the first widely-marketed, flavorful nonalcoholic beverage. 

Coca-Cola Comes to France, 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

Coca-Cola crew giving a free taste in France, 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

The French did not want their country to be overtaken by American enterprises and so they tried to prevent the mass production of ‘Coke’ (as the beverage would come to be known) in France. Today, however, the beverage is manufactured in France, and all across Europe, although the recipe varies slightly from the original American version.

Squeezing through the narrow streets of Paris, and zooming past iconic landmarks in the French capital, Mark Kauffman snapped photographs of a Coca-Cola delivery truck bringing the beverage to the people of France in 1950. “Buvez Coca-Cola Bien Glace” (translated to “Drink Ice Cold Coca-Cola”) emblazoned on the vehicle captured the attention of both the young and old. However, skeptics of the drink also ranged in age, and winegrowers in the famous wine region strongly suggested that the drink was addictive. 

A man in a beret spits a mouthful of Coca-Cola at the camera – Paris, France, 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

Skeptical French winemaker tasting Coca-Cola for the first time, 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

Regardless of the initial protest against the splendidly sweet beverage, the French government granted Coca-Cola a license in 1952 and the consumption in France officially began. However, even today, on a per capita basis, the French drink less Coke than any other European country. The sugary beverage may still be popular worldwide, but scroll through the rest of the gallery below to see initial reactions to Coca-Cola coming to France! 

Couple drinking Cola-Cola at a French Cafe in Paris, 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

Coca-Cola Comes to France, 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

Coca-Cola truck driving past Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

Woman drinking Coca-Cola at a wine shop in Paris, France – 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

Coca-Cola representative pouring a glass of Coke for a Parisian to taste, 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

Coca-Cola truck driving though Paris, France – 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

A Coca-Cola delivery driver sits in the open door of his truck while on a break, France, 1950. (Mark Kauffman/LIFE Picture Collection)

Craving more Coke? Click here to view images of vintage Coca-Cola ads all across the world!

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