Coca-Cola says ‘This American Life’ failed to reveal its secret formula


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Relax, everyone. The radio program ‘This American Life’ came close with its attempts to reveal Coca-Cola’s top-secret formula. But the formula is still very much safe, and still very much top-secret.

So says Atlanta-based Coca-Cola. The soft-drink giant has been bombarded with queries, e-mails and phone calls from around the globe ever since this weekend’s edition of ‘This American Life’ that suggested that the top-secret Coca-Cola formula was not-so-secret at all and added that ‘...we think we may have located the recipe.’


Referenced was a 1979 article that ran in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about the discovery of a pharmacist’s formula for a cola drink. That article has long led to widespread speculation that the recipe was the basis -- if not the actual formula -- for Coca-Cola. Kerry Tressler, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, said the media relations department came to work Monday morning to the flood of media requests. ‘It has been quite a day,’ she said. She added with amusement that many of the media requests seemed to assume that the formula had been revealed and were waiting for a capitulation from the company or a confirmation of the ‘real’ formula.

‘Our formulation is our company’s most valued trade secret, and we will not be coming forward with that formula,’ Tressler said with a laugh. She said that there is always media interest in Coca-Cola -- ‘It’s one of the world’s most valuable trademarks. People are very interested in that’ -- but that this latest flare-up was completely unexpected. (We haven’t been able to get through to ‘This American Life’ for a comment, and there were problems with the website throughout the day Tuesday, leading to further speculation that it crashed because of all the interest.)

As the radio program tried to recreate Coca-Cola for audiences, a historian for the soft-drink giant put it to a taste test and confirmed that it was not, in fact, ‘the real thing,’ Tressler said. That didn’t seem to stop the media from going into overdrive about whether the secret was out. There was such a flurry of interest that it all led to a second wave -- stories about all the stories. Yes, I plead guilty.

Tressler said that from her point of view, the interest couldn’t have come at a better time: ‘This is our 125th anniversary. So it’s an exciting time for our company.’

She did confirm the legend of the formula -- that it actually exists on paper, secure in a bank vault. As to rumors that only two people at the company know the formula at any given time? Well, that might be exaggerated. ‘We cannot confirm the number of people who are familiar with the formulation, but it is only a small handful,’ she said.

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch