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The Coca-Cola formula is The Coca-Cola Company's secret recipe for Coca-Cola syrup that bottlers combine with carbonated water to create its line of cola soft drinks. As a publicity, marketing, and intellectual property protection strategy started by Robert W. Woodruff, the company presents the formula as a closely held trade secret known only to a few employees.
The primary ingredients of Coca-Cola syrup include either high fructose corn syrup or sucrose derived from cane sugar, caramel color, caffeine, phosphoric acid, coca extract, lime extract, vanilla, and glycerin. High fructose corn syrup or sucrose are overwhelmingly the major added ingredients: one 600 ml bottle (≈20.29 U.S. fl. oz.) of Coca Cola contains the approximate equivalent of 15 teaspoons of sugar. However, contrary to what is implied by the "cola" name, Coca-Cola syrup does not contain any kola nut extract. Since no kola extracts are present in the recipe, the primary taste of Coca-Cola comes from vanilla and cinnamon with trace amounts of orange, lime and lemon and spices such as nutmeg.
Coca-Cola was originally one of hundreds of coca-based drinks that claimed medicinal properties and benefits to health; early marketing claimed that Coca-Cola alleviated headaches and acted as a "brain and nerve tonic". Coca leaves were used in Coca-Cola's preparation and the small amount of cocaine present in the product gave the drinker a "buzz". In 1903 Coca-Cola removed cocaine from the formula, substituting caffeine as the stimulating ingredient, while dropping all the product's medicinal claims. In response to increasing pressure from the United States Food and Drug Administration, which was carrying on a campaign against harmful food ingredients and misleading claims, Coca-Cola replaced unprocessed coca leaves with "spent" coca leaves, which flavored the product without providing any drug effect. It is believed that coca leaves are imported from Peru, then treated by US chemical company Stepan, which then sells the de-cocainized residue to Coca-Cola. The Coca-Cola Company declines to comment upon whether or not Coca-Cola contains spent coca leaves, deferring to the secret nature of the formula. Since 1929, the beverage has contained only trace amounts of cocaine alkaloids, which do not have any drug effect.
In 1911 the United States sued the Coca-Cola Company, citing the Pure Food and Drugs Act, in an attempt to force the Coca-Cola Company to remove caffeine from Coca-Cola syrup, claiming that caffeine was harmful to health. The United States lost the case, but the decision was partly reversed in a 1916 appeal to the United States Supreme Court. To avoid further litigation, the Coca-Cola Company settled, paying all legal costs and agreeing to reduce the amount of caffeine in its product. Congress passed laws requiring caffeine to be listed on the product's ingredients label.
In the United States, Coca-Cola primarily uses high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, having replaced sucrose from sugar cane in the 1980s. Coca-Cola made with cane sugar (sucrose) or a syrup-sucrose mixture is available in certain markets in 2-liter bottles in the weeks leading up to Passover and is available in most markets year round in 12-ounce glass bottles imported from Mexico.
Coca-Cola, in its typical formulation, was first certified Kosher in 1935 by rabbi Tobias Geffen when vegetable glycerin replaced beef tallow-derived glycerin. However, because Coca-Cola sold in the United States is typically sweetened using high-fructose corn syrup, a legume product by the definitions of Jewish kosher law, Ashkenazi Jews cannot drink it during Passover, owing to their tradition of abstaining from legumes as well as from grain during the festival. Therefore, while Jews of Sephardic ancestry can drink it, Coca-Cola sweetened with corn syrup is not labelled Kosher for Passover in order to avoid confusion. In the weeks leading up to Passover, United States bottlers in certain markets with a substantial Jewish population substitute cane sugar for high-fructose corn syrup in order to obtain Kosher for Passover certification.
In most markets where Coca-Cola produced for Passover is sold, it is offered in 2-liter bottles with a yellow cap displaying the OU-P certification. In the greater Chicago, Illinois area, the local bottler offers 2-liter bottles with a white cap displaying the CRC-P certification.
In April 1985 the company briefly replaced the familiar Coca-Cola formula with one called "the new taste of Coke". This new formulation was not well received and after a few years was withdrawn from the market, replaced with a slight variation of the old recipe (the primary difference was that cane sugar was replaced with high-fructose corn syrup), briefly identified as "Coca-Cola Classic" before returning to its identity as simply "Coke".
In the United States, certain retailers created a demand for cane sugar sweetened Coca-Cola produced in Mexico. U.S. retailers obtained the Mexican produced product outside the official Coca-Cola distribution network and the imported product was not labelled in accordance with U.S. food labeling laws. Noticing the success of this product in local groceries and large chains such as Costco, the Coca-Cola Company began officially importing Coca-Cola produced in Mexico with proper labeling for distribution through official channels.
The Coca Cola Bottling Company of Cleveland, which also serves a portion of Pennsylvania, never switched to high fructose corn syrup and continues to sell Coca-Cola produced with cane sugar.
This recipe does not specify when or how the ingredients are mixed, or the flavoring oil quantity units of measure (though it implies that the "Merchandise 7X" was mixed first). This was common in recipes at the time, as it was assumed that preparers knew the method.
Recipe is from Food Flavorings: Composition, Manufacture and Use. Makes one 1 US gallon (3.8 l; 0.83 imp gal) of syrup. Yield (used to flavor carbonated water at 1 US fl oz (30 ml) per bottle): 128 bottles, 6.5 US fl oz (190 ml).
On February 11, 2011, Ira Glass said on his PRI radio show, This American Life, that the secret formula to Coca-Cola had been uncovered in "Everett Beal's Recipe Book", reproduced in the February 28, 1979, issue of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The formula found basically matched the formula found in Pemberton's diary. The recipe revealed contains:
The secret 7X flavor (use 2 oz of flavor to 5 gals syrup):
After Dr. John S. Pemberton invented Coca-Cola in 1886, the formula was kept a close secret, only shared with a small group and not written down. In 1891, Asa Candler became the sole proprietor of Coca-Cola after purchasing the rights to the business. Then, in 1919, Ernest Woodruff and a group of investors purchased the Company from Candler and his family. To finance the purchase Woodruff arranged a loan and as collateral he provided documentation of the formula by asking Candler's son to commit the formula to paper. This was placed in a vault in the Guaranty Bank in New York until the loan was repaid in 1925. At that point, Woodruff reclaimed the secret formula and returned it to Atlanta and placed it in the Trust Company Bank, now SunTrust Bank, where it remained through 2011. On December 8, 2011, the Coca-Cola Company moved the secret formula to a purpose built vault in a permanent interactive exhibit at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.
On January 23, 2011, during an NFL commercial, Coca-Cola teased that they would share the secret formula only to flash a comical "formula" for a few frames. This required the use of a video recording device to freeze on the formula for any analysis, which ultimately proved to be a marketing ploy with no intention of sharing the full official formula. Ingredients listed in the commercial included nutmeg oil, lime juice, cocoa, vanilla, caffeine, "flavoring" and a smile.