Does the name Tom Robinson ring a bell? We’re pretty confident that very few of you will be saying “yes” to that question – unless you’re thinking of the ‘2, 4, 6, 8 Motorway’ singer, that is. But if you’re a fan of Coca-Cola original taste – and all our other great brands, for that matter – you’ve got a lot to thank a very different Tom Robinson for.

Way back in 1938, Irish businessman Tom Robinson wrote a letter to The Coca‑Cola Company stating his interest in setting up a franchise in Northern Ireland and bringing Coca-Cola’s globally-renowned drink to the Irish shores. On 17 April the following year, an agreement between Mr Robinson and The Coca-Cola Company was signed, and so formed the Ulster Iced Drinks Company on Rumford Street, Belfast.

Tom Robinson bringing Coca-Cola to Ireland marked the beginning of a unique relationship between the world’s favourite drink and the Emerald Isle. That’s why, this St Patrick’s Day, we’re celebrating that relationship – by taking you on an exploration of Coca-Cola’s rich Irish heritage.

Going global

In 1938, Tom Robinson dreamt of his fellow Irish one day enjoying Coca-Cola. But would he ever have guessed that people from across the globe would soon be enjoying Coca-Cola because of Ireland?

Coca-Cola in Ireland has come a long way since Rumford Street.

The site at Rumford Street was followed by the first bottling company in the Republic of Ireland: Munster Bottlers of Cork; which itself was later joined by the Coca‑Cola Bottling Co. Dublin Ltd. With consumer demand increasing by the day, and Coca-Cola’s Irish portfolio forever bringing bring new favourites, the next few decades would see our presence in Ireland grow, and new locations continue to crop up.

Today over 1,600 people are employed by the Coca-Cola system – including our bottling partner – across the island, and our concentrate manufacturing plant in Ballina now exports all around the world. Concentrate that is produced at Ballina Beverages is shipped across Europe and beyond. Consumers across four continents enjoy many Coca-Cola products that ultimately started their life in Co. Mayo.

From partners, to leaders

It’s safe to say that Ireland’s influence on Coca-Cola hasn’t only been on the supply chain. The leadership of The Coca-Cola Company – globally, not just in the Emerald Isle – has strongly featured some of Ireland’s brightest minds.

County Down’s Neville Isdell previously served as Chairman and CEO, and the latter role was also filled by Irish-American, Donald Keough. Current Senior Vice President and Deputy Chief Financial Officer, John Murphy, is a Trinity College-educated Irishman, and General Manager of Coca-Cola UK & Ireland Jon Woods hails from Belfast.

Finally, last but certainly not least, Irial Finan. Finan retired from his post as Executive Vice President and President of Bottling Investments Group in 2018 after a whopping 36 years with Coca-Cola!

But it hasn’t all been one-way traffic

The Coca-Cola Company has always had a strong legacy of giving back – that’s why we’ve donated over $1 billion through The Coca-Cola Foundation – and Ireland is front and centre of the great work done by our philanthropic arm.

The Thank You Fund is just one example of the great work done by The Coca-Cola Foundation in Ireland.

A great example of that work is the Thank You Fund. Starting life in 2011, Coca-Cola Ireland’s Thank You Fund supports innovative non-profit projects that help to engage and inspire young people across Ireland and Northern Ireland. In 2018 alone, the fund provided €100,000 in grants. This year it will have given over €1 million since 2011.

Not to be outdone is the Thrive Project. This is an initiative co-developed by Cola-Cola and Enterprise Ireland that each year gives several Irish food and drink start-ups a crash-course in business leadership. The programme provides those companies with the tools, know-how and the confidence to take themselves to the next level, and celebrates its fourth year in 2019.

We love nothing more than getting into the Irish spirit

There’s no doubting that Coca-Cola is honorary Irish, which is why we love nothing more than getting fully into the Irish spirit with our St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

When we brought the St Patrick’s Day celebrations to London.

Do you remember when we turned the Coca-Cola London Eye green in tribute to our favourite holiday? Or have you ever joined our St Patrick’s Day festivities in the kitchen, with our menu of Coca-Cola-inspired recipes?

We can’t wait to get into the celebrations again this year, and would love to hear how you’ve enjoyed a Coca-Cola inspired St Patrick’s Day. Let us know via the social channels listed below!