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Is the Coca-Cola recipe a secret?


I would like to draw attention to the distinction between a recipe and composition:

Composition: a list of all ingredients, including quantity/proportion.

Recipe: a list of steps one can take to create the final composition. In other words, one of many possible ways of achieving the composition, and certainly not defining it all by itself.

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    I'll try to find it, but I remember an episode of This American Life on NPR dealing with secrecy surrounding the exact compsition of Coca Cola and someone trying to replicate it from scratch. – Monkey Tuesday Mar 22 '12 at 18:49
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    Here's a news article claiming the formula is a secret, and here's an article referring to Coke and Pepsi changing their secret formulas in response to legislation in California. – Bruce Alderman Mar 22 '12 at 19:49
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    Note that a recipe is much more than just a list of ingredients. Even if someone could determine the exact proportions of each substance that goes into a beverage, that's not the same as saying they've determined the process by which the ingredients are mixed, heated, and otherwise treated during the process of making said beverage. Most beer is just water, grain, and yeast, but the cooking and fermentation process alters the final result drastically. – Flimzy Mar 24 '12 at 8:16
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    Can't one analyse it in a chemistry lab? Hasn't this been done? – Prateek Mar 24 '12 at 11:19
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    I think @Flimzy was referring to the initial ingredients. Even though we know that the chemical composition of beer contains, e.g., alcohol, we would be incorrect to assume that alcohol was an initial ingredient. Unless one knew the process and underlying mechanics/chemistry of brewing beer (temperature + yeast + sugars + ...), one might not be able to determine the initial ingredients simply from the final result. – ESultanik Mar 26 '12 at 14:27
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The recipe

The recipe is a secret. It is kept in a vault that is on display, but the recipe itself as with its other products are considered trade secrets.

A trade secret is any information that allows you to make money because it is not generally known. A trade secret could be a formula, c­omputer program, process, method, device, technique, pricing information, customer lists or other non-public information. If the economic value of a piece of information relies on it being kept private, it could be a trade secret.

One of the most famous examples of a trade secret is the formula for Coca-Cola. The formula, also referred to by the code name "Merchandise 7X," is known to only a few people and kept in the vault of a bank in Atlanta, Georgia.

The composition

Coca-Cola and all of its varieties have their basic ingredients listed on their home page. As noted below some key ingredients are listed in a way that makes the specific ingredient difficult to tell. Since they provide the final product to consumers without licence it is hard to say that it (the final product) is a secret. The recipe to make it, as noted above, is a secret. Wikipedia has some links to recipes proported to have been used.

Addendum

In 2006 a disgruntled employee tried to sell the Coke recipe to rival Pepsi.

when PepsiCo Inc. got a letter offering Coke trade secrets, it went straight to its corporate rival.

Six weeks later, three people were scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday to face charges of stealing confidential information, including a sample of a new drink, from The Coca-Cola Co., and trying to sell it to PepsiCo.

and

on June 27, an undercover FBI agent offered to buy other trade secret items for $1.5 million from "Dirk." The same day a bank account was opened under the names of Duhaney and Dimson, and the address used on the account was that of Duhaney's residence, prosecutors said.

Video surveillance showed Williams at her desk at Coke headquarters going through multiple files looking for documents and stuffing them into bags. She also was observed holding a liquid container with a white label, which resembled the description of a new Coca-Cola product sample, before placing it into her personal bag, prosecutors say, adding that Coca-Cola later verified the sample was genuine and is a product the company is developing.

Conclusion

So while the composition is not a secret, the recipe to make it the drink that it is, is.

  • The quoted references seem to be talking about new products that the Coca-Cola company is developing rather than Coke itself. Coca-Cola makes many products besides Coke which are not really relevant to the OP question. – Rincewind42 Mar 23 '12 at 6:41
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    It's the same with Scotland's national drink, Irn Bru -the recipe is their key intellectual property, and only known by three individuals at any one time. – Rory Alsop Mar 24 '12 at 13:33
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    Nobody can tell if it's really a secret, see Coca Cola's Secret Recipe. – A.L Aug 12 '14 at 2:16
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    @A.L I wrote the answer linked to in your comment. It has since been expanded, maybe worth another look. I came here to consider writing an answer to the question here, but I think I'll just stand on the strength of my answer on Seasoned Advice and encourage everyone to put down the Kool-Aid! – Jolenealaska Aug 13 '14 at 1:18

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