Is Coca-Cola's secret out of the bottle?
Coca-Cola's brand is more valuable than its formula, marketing experts say.
February 16th, 2011
12:39 PM ET

Is Coca-Cola's secret out of the bottle?

It's something, but it's not the real thing, Coca-Cola says.

Rumors have been buzzing that the super-secret recipe for the iconic soft drink had finally been divulged through a 1979 newspaper clipping and a story on public radio's "This American Life."

"Rest assured that while many third parties have tried over time to crack the secret formula of Coca-Cola ... there truly is only one 'real thing,' " Ted Ryan, Coca-Cola's manager of archives and exhibits, wrote Wednesday on a company blog.

The company insists the formula is locked in a bank vault in Atlanta, Georgia, and only a handful of employees know it or have access to it.

The 19th-century handwritten list of ingredients that "This American Life" host Ira Glass found pictured in a 1979 column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution may have been an attempt at a knockoff, Coca-Cola's official archivist, Phil Mooney, told CNN.

Interest in the secret recipe is so high that heavy traffic reportedly brought down the radio show's Web server after the segment aired.

While the formula Glass found might have some relation to the original product of the 1800s, it clearly is not today's recipe: The list of ingredients includes coca and alcohol, a Tuesday story in the Journal-Constitution notes.

All the secrecy is nothing more than marketing anyway, experts insist.

"Today, anybody with access to a sophisticated chemistry laboratory could analyze the formula of Coke, but no one can call a product called Coke other than the Coca-Cola Company," John Sicher, editor and publisher of "Beverage Digest," told the paper. "The so-called 'secret formula' is a wonderful story of lore and mystery, but in reality, the value today is the brand, not the formula."

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Filed under: Food • Georgia • U.S.
soundoff (223 Responses)
  1. Pam Caldwell

    Killer Coke. Wiki it.

    February 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harry Manback

      So, if you're against Coke, I hope you also don't use anything with "blood minerals" (especially diamonds!), or even chocolate!

      February 16, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Diamonds are a tax for the stupid.

      February 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • buffoon

      Yup, the coke formula is exposed. Just don't expect 25 cent coke cans anytime soon!

      http://bit.ly/Cocacola Here's a closer look http://bit.ly/Cokerecipes

      February 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • jason

      it's a wel advised remedy to eat battery acid corrosion off a car battery ....hmmm whats that tell you about what it might be doing inside your body over time ...coke doesn't want the public to dwell on that tidbit of info or else they would tout that on there bottles as another great use for their product besides guzzling down can after can .

      February 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Manfred

      How does "formula locked in a vault in Altanta" mean anything when Coke syrup is manufactured all over the world, hence the information must be everywhere it's made? Is this the corporate version of championship wrestling, we're seeing obvious BS but it's fun to pretend we aren't?

      February 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • 110th

      "it's a wel advised remedy to eat battery acid corrosion off a car battery ....hmmm whats that tell you about what it might be doing inside your body over time" –

      The acids already in your stomach can do more than that to a car battery!

      February 16, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Old Vault Teller

    As a former vault employee of SunTrust Banks, I can assure you that there is no getting to that recipe. It's location is no secret – it's in a "Paper Vault" next to the former "Money Vault" buried under the downtown streets of Atlanta. You have to have keys and codes to get to it, and there are only a handful of people with that kind of access at the bank. If you understand that SunTrust (formerly Trust Company Bank) was literally founded to keep Coke money, and understand that each company sits on the others board – you'd understand the verocity with which this bank will make sure that nobody gets to that recipe! Put it this way – as a new employee at the bank, I had a Pepsi ripped from my hands and was instructed that to bring another Pepsi product into the office was likely to get me fired. Yah – it's that serious.

    February 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • LocalJim

      sounds like a job for oceans 11

      February 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Dobbs

      Verocity? Is that one of the secret ingredients?

      February 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      @Bob Dobbs: Think that's a mix of ferocity (the correct word) and veracity.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • HillsBros

      Wow....Wonder what they would do if you brought in a Snapple...lol

      February 16, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • former SunTrust Employee

      LOL! and you HAD to pay for your COke didnt you? LOL! I used to think that was funny.. you want me to only drink coke products.. and you want me to pay for them too? Nah... YES.

      February 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      I believe this. It's hard enough to find a Pepsi in the gas stations in Atlanta! Row after row of Coke products, then one Pepsi row on the bottom, hidden away, near the microwave cheeseburgers.

      February 16, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Old Vault Teller

      @ Ralph – thanks for the correction. f and v very close on the old keyboard!

      February 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben Dover

      A girlfriend and I were parked at our favorite make out area. we had the radio on and when I didn't have my tongue in her mouth I was drinking a coke, The news came on and the reporter was telling everyone to be on the lookout for a killer with one hand missing and a hook in its place. My girl got so scared she forced me to take her home, and you know what? when we got to her house there was a bloody hook hanging from the car's door handle

      February 16, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Samuel Markes

    How does this qualify as news? This is sensationalist garbage.
    CNN, therre is so much worthy of reporting in the world, why waste bandwidth on this tripe?

    February 16, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Get over yourself. If you're not interested, don't read it.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Dobbs

      I think somebody needs to have a Coke and a smile.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Samuel – If you do not think it is news, don't read it. Since you read it though, I think CNN is doing their job. Sounds like you are just a negative person looking to talk bad about something.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • NYJellybean

      "How does this qualify as news? This is sensationalist garbage.
      CNN, therre is so much worthy of reporting in the world, why waste bandwidth on this tripe?"

      You know...you had to click on the link to get here. If you weren't interested, why did you bother to click on it? Don't blame CNN for your inability to resist the temptation to click on "sensationalist garbage".

      February 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glenn

      Am I the only one finds Samuel's remarks ironic? Talk about a waste of bandwidth...

      February 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • ndiezel

      I love the "this is not news" and "how can we act this way when people are starving in the world" people. Coming up next, the "shut up! they will make more money that you ever will in a lifetime" guy.

      February 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Talgrath

      You do realize that by clicking on this article to comment you are telling CNN that you care about things like this and want to see more of it, right?

      February 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arick

      Everyone knows that CNN is hard up for bandwidth. It isn't like they are a big company or anything.

      February 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • PepsiRulz

      This is NOT news. Just more garbage from CNN, the purveyor of junk news.

      February 16, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • luke t

      you took time to read it and post on it, just because you use big words doesnt make you important or educated, by the way.

      February 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • brightviolet

      I don't really care about Coke or Pepsi or this article but I just have to stop and LOL at someone thinking words like 'sensationalist' and 'bandwidth' are "big words" hahahahaha

      February 16, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Time2Burn

      Agree, this story is just silly & a waste of everyones time. I can't believe all the schucks that are getting so defensive about it. They must be Coke heads. The losers need to get a life...

      February 16, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • N.D. Anajones

      In This Thread: Butthurt Pepsi Drinkers and Fox News Fans

      February 16, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cesar

    Givvvvve me de formulaaa! Givvvvve me de formulaaaa!

    February 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      The Coke in your nose...puuuull iiiiiiiiiit oouuuut youuuurrrr noooosse!

      February 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SBFlorida

    How much did Coca-Cola pay for this promotional piece disguised as a news story?

    February 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glenn

      I doubt Coke arranged for anything. Both Coca-Cola & CNN are based in the same area. Rumor has it that CNN watches for a change in the color of smoke coming from the roof of Coca-Cola's headquarters to see if a new CEO has been elected...

      February 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • dike

      half the board of directors in CNN are coke Employees and vice-versa

      February 16, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • N.D. Anajones

      Waah! CNN mentioned a product in an article! WAAH! CONSPIRACY! WHHAAAAAAHHH!!!

      February 16, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. SteveJ

    I am conviced that the New Coke fiasco of the early 80's was a sophisticated ploy to mask the switch from cane sugar to corn syrup in the Classic Coke recipe. Distract people for a few months with a different and inferior product, then announce the triumphant return of the 'original'- only i't's not the original. Living in Texas some local stores carry what we call Mexican Coke: bottled south of the border it's sweetened with cane sugar, not corn syrup. A little more expensive but if you have a chance to try it I recommend it. The true original recipe.

    February 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      Agreed, Steve. "Mexican Coke" is awesome...but @ $1 a (glass) bottle or nearly $20 for a case at Costco; a bit pricey for good taste.

      February 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glenn

      Amen brother! I've been saying that for years and people think I'm just another conspiracy nut!

      February 16, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vrrooomm Vroom

      Interesting point. You can get Mex Coke at a lot of places now. And yes it tastes super sugary good. Put one on ice in the dead of summer and your in heaven.

      February 16, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hangedman

      I thought Mexican Coke was something different.

      February 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • goodgodgurdy

      God I miss those Mexican cokes. Lived in Houston most of my life and always bought them at my local HEB. Taste just like a coke did back in the 50 & 60s. Ice the bottle down, wait....wait...wait...then pull it out, pry the top off and experience being 6 years old again in 1954 when if you got one coke a month you were lucky.

      I agree about the "new Coke" failure being a way to introduce corn syrup in the formula.

      Try a Jarritos Mandarin orange if you can get one. Sometimes dollar General and Big Lots carry them. The 2 liter bottles in Walmart and not as good as the glass bottles.

      February 16, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • brightviolet

      If you've found some data to show that Coke was still made with sugar right before New Coke came out, and was made with corn syrup right after, then you're probably right. I'd believe it.

      February 16, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • brightviolet

      Oh, I checked Snopes, apparently Coke was already being made with corn syrup before New Coke came out.

      February 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kev

      I haven't had the Mexican Coke, but I have had the Pepsi Throwback. It's much better than regular Pepsi. The cane sugar has a much cleaner taste and doesn't have that syrupy finish that the corn syrup version has. Much more refreshing.

      February 16, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Josh

    "Today, anybody with access to a sophisticated chemistry laboratory could analyze the formula of Coke ..."

    There is a rather major difference with knowing the chemical elements and compounds used, and knowing the ingredients. Knowing there is hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, etc, in the drink is different than knowing there is vanilla extract, kola beans, and lemon juice.

    February 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nate

      Not much of a difference really. All those chemical formulas can be cross-referenced figured out.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigdaddyhen

      They can tell you what is in it (which you can find on the ingredient list), but they can't tell the ratios of specific ingredients, or how they are combined. Anyone who bakes knows the order you do things, or how you do them can make all the difference.

      February 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julia

      Actually, they CAN tell you the specific ingredients AND the ratios of those amounts. Its really not hard these days

      February 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mare0568

    You guys can keep your secret formula. Pepsi all the way up here in northeastern Pennsylvania. Hardly anyone drinks Coke - too sweet. Yuck.

    February 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      I live in northeast PA and I say Coke all the way!!

      February 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marrod

      I totally agree with you about coke being sweeter than pepsi. I am not much of a soda drinker but once in a while like having a cold soda with a burger and definitely coke way sweeter than pepsi.

      February 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mark

    Honestly, I've found Stop N Shop's store brand cola is better than both Coke or Pepsi...and less expensive too!

    February 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine Mathis

      I totally agree!!!

      February 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • dike

      they have natural ingredients....

      February 16, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mecatfish

    Coke makes my teeth squeak.

    February 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Dobbs

      You're not supposed to brush with it (unless you're British).

      February 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JFK

    If you knew what actually was in Coke you wouldn't drink it.
    Why do you think they don't tell anybody what's in it?

    February 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Dobbs

      Nothing better with your Soylent Green than an icy bottle of Coke.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • dike

      The companies that sell cleaning agents dont want you to know what is in Coke else they will go belly up for an alternate cheap product with more chemicals and cleaning power. May not pass the EPA or green seal of approval...

      February 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jjheinis

    Remember, CNN is based in Atlanta so this is hometown news.

    February 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    Sugar. Water. Marketing. The end. (ps. to the Coke slaves, get a life. It's just marketing folks and you are spokespeople)

    February 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Dobbs

      Have you considered screenwriting? You have a gift, sir.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gene

      C'mon;

      Ford vs. Chevy.

      Apple vs., uh, Wintel.

      Tide vs. Cheer.

      Coke vs. Pepsi.

      This is Kozmik Trooth!

      February 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Azbycx

      Apple currently uses Intel processors. Tide and Cheer are both made by Procter & Gamble.

      February 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. i.love.the.usa

    Coca-Cola was actually developed by Thomas Pemberton in Columbus, Georgia. Let's give the credit where it is due!

    February 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RB

    Coca-cola is the best I never drink Pepsi
    Blind taste test are ridiculous, I could pick Coca-cola over Pepsi and others 100 out 100 times
    Pepsi even finally quit using that ridiculous commercial

    February 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
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