What’s the secret formula for Coke? That’s the question that’s been on everybody’s mind for over a century.
But NPR’s “This American Life” (produced by Chicago Public Radio) thinks they may have the answer. Apparently John Pemberton, the pharmacist who created the soft drink in 1886, developed something called Merchandise 7X (a.k.a. the secret formula) and left it in a leather-bound notebook.
Coke’s recipe for their soft drink is one of the most closely-guarded secrets in business. After Asa Candler bought out Pemberton in 1887 for $2,300, the exact recipe for Merchandise 7X was placed in a vault in an Atlanta bank.
According to published reports, only two company employees know the secret ingredients and how they’re mixed at any given time. The secret is so closely held that those two employees aren’t allowed to travel together out of fear that an accident might take both of their lives.
Company historian Mark Pendergrast was quoted in Yahoo News as saying, “I think that it (the alleged secret formula) certainly is a version of the formula. It’s very similar to a formula that I found” in one of John Pemberton’s notebooks when he was doing research for his book.
So what’s the secret recipe that was revealed on “This American Life”? The ingredients are provided below, but if you want to know the real secret formula for Coke, keep scrolling past the recipe and read on.
The Alleged Secret Formula for Coke:
Fluid extract of Coca: 3 drams USP
Citric acid: 3 oz
Caffeine: 1 oz
Sugar: 30 (unclear quantity)
Water: 2.5 gal
Lime juice: 2 pints, 1 quart
Vanilla: 1 oz
Caramel: 1.5 oz or more for color
The secret 7X flavor (use 2 oz of flavor to 5 gals syrup):
Alcohol: 8 oz
Orange oil: 20 drops
Lemon oil: 30 drops
Nutmeg oil: 10 drops
Coriander: 5 drops
Neroli: 10 drops
Cinnamon: 10 drops
Okay, now that you know the recipe, would you like to know the real secret formula for Coca-Cola?
M(0.4) + D(0.4) + E(0.5) + P(0.00002) = the secret formula for Coke
where, M = marketing horsepower, D = scope of distribution, E = brand equity (built up over the past century) and P = product.
Said more simply, Coke’s secret formula all boils down to their marketing, distribution and brand equity, with a little dollop of product differentiation added on top for good measure.
And there you have it. The secret formula for Coke has very little to do with their recipe and a great deal to do with their marketing, distribution and their brand equity.
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You might also be interested in reading Coke vs. Pepsi, The Taste Test They Don’t Want You to Know About on the 60 Second Marketer website.